There’s no question about it: A derogatory chant led by a small group of fans near the end of last Saturday’s Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake football game was pretty bad sportsmanship, meant to taunt players on the opposing (and soundly trounced) Amsterdam High School team. Even worse, the chant focused on the city’s (and football team’s) dominant ethnic group — Puerto Ricans — elevating its offensiveness from the usual tasteless taunts of an exuberant athletic crowd.
Thankfully, the reaction by BH-BL’s coaches, school officials and students has been right, from the very beginning: Coach Matt Shell stopped the game, got on the public address system and threatened to forfeit the game (which BH-BL was in the process of winning, 49-0) if the chanting continued. On Monday, district officials sent a letter of apology to the Amsterdam City School District, making it clear that they considered the students’ boorishness “unacceptable.”
In a matter of two days, roughly 900 BH-BL students signed a letter by the president of the school’s student government (and a football player) disavowing the action and offering to hold an event for Amsterdam students aimed at smoothing things over. Even three of the six to 12 kids believed to have conducted the chant stepped forward and accepted responsibility for their behavior.
District officials are determined to punish them, and identify and punish the other miscreants; that’s not a bad idea, but we hope the punishment is confined to extracurricular activities and does not resort to classroom suspensions. The action took place at a school function on school grounds, but was not during school hours. And while it appears to have been intended in a derogatory manner, there is undeniably some ambiguity about the term — “Amsterico” — which even some members of the city’s Puerto Rican community use in a neutral way to describe their dominance in the city.