ROBBINSVILLE, NJ -- The New Jersey State Insterscholastic Athletic Association announced Wednesday that it will have a decision by Friday this week as to whether to refer a potential bias incident between the Summit Hilltoppers and North Plainfield Canucks football teams.
"The association is currently conducting additional follow up and outreach," Executive Director Steven Timko said. "In addition, the NJSIAA has maintained ongoing communication with the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General, as required under the NJSIAA Sportsmanship Policy."
In 2013, the NJSIAA entered into an agreement with the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General to investigate all bias incidents alleged to happen at sanctioned sporting events or with NJSIAA teams. This is in addition to previous bans on fans, staff, players or officials inciting violence or abuse, or using profane or offensive language. The NJSIAA is the first scholastic athletic association in the country to implement such a ban on bigotry during events.
The incident in question happened before a Summit Hilltoppers home game on Sept. 13, when Summit players used a banana to block a hole in a door between the home and visitor locker rooms. A North Plainfield player saw it happen and grabbed the banana to pull it through, and at that point the Summit player tried to put another banana in the hole. According to reports this happened a number of times.
The North Plainfield players and coaches viewed this as a racist taunt from the mostly white Hilltoppers to the mostly African-American Canucks. A subsequent release from Summit Superintendent Nathan Parker said that the incident was a misunderstanding of a long-standing practice and that there was no racist intent. To date, statements by game officials have not been made public, and the officials themselves have offered no comments.
If the NJSIAA determines there is no cause to forward the issue, the NJSIAA investigation could be ended. If there is sufficeint evidence of wrongdoing the issue would be sent to the NJSIAA Controversies Committee, possibly this week per today's announcement.
According to the NJSIAA bylaws, one of the penalties the Controversies Committee could hand down would be a forfeiture of the game between the Hilltoppers and the Canucks. That would erase the record winning streak of one of the best teams in the Garden State. Summit won the Group III state championship in both 2012 and 2013.
Other penalties could include the suspension of players or coaches, fines to the school at fault, loss of championship titles, probation of a sports program, or even expulsion from the NJSIAA.
The other possibility is that the Controversies Committee could find that the Summit player did not do anything wrong, and therefore not hand down any penalties.