Two MN high schools refuse to compete with New Prague teams after reported racist incidents

Updated Feb. 23, 5:53 p.m.

A Robbinsdale district high school joined St. Louis Park High School Wednesday in its decision to cancel future athletic competitions with New Prague High School.

Robbinsdale Cooper High School said that its girls basketball team and coaches were subjected to racist comments from students and adults while playing a game in New Prague on Feb. 15, the same day as a similar incident with a St. Louis Park boys hockey team.

The Robbinsdale Area Schools district called on the Minnesota State High School League to take the experiences seriously.

St. Louis Park athletic director Andrew Ewald said his withdrawal comes after students in St. Louis Park High School’s boys hockey program allegedly were subjected to a racist incident on Feb. 15 while in New Prague.

“I will not tolerate or allow our students to further experience any racism while participating in athletics against New Prague High School,” Ewald wrote in a letter Monday. “I will not stand for your community and students to have teachable moments at the expense of our students.”

The athletic director did not say specifically what happened.

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According to the New Prague Times, students and adults made racist taunts, which reporters described as animal noises, during a high school girls’ basketball game against Robbinsdale on Feb 15. Robbinsdale coaches asked them to stop.

Ewald cited separate alleged racist incidents experienced by student athletes from other districts in his letter.

St. Louis Park High School will not participate in athletic competitions with New Prague through at least the end of the spring season. Ewald said the cancellations will continue until “the harm that was caused is repaired and we are assured that any of our stakeholders, most importantly our students, will not be victimized by racism by any New Prague stakeholder in the future.

“We also plan to remove the New Prague banner from our gymnasium until the harm is repaired and assurances are to our liking.”

Ewald added that he consulted with school leaders as well as students when making his decision.

In a message to MPR News, New Prague Superintendent Tim Dittberner acknowledged the incident at the hockey game last week and apologized for it.

“We do not tolerate racist or hate speech by students or athletic players. We know the hurt this causes. The incident was dealt with immediately. We sincerely apologize for this incident and make no excuses for the behavior,” Dittberner said.

He said his school was working with students, staff and coaches so “these types of incidents do not happen in the future.” Dittberner did not elaborate on the steps they are taking, saying “we will be sharing more specific information about these steps at a future date.”