A New Jersey high school football coach claims he was fired over the “ratio of black to white students” on his football team, with minorities making up half the roster.
Nick Strom told the Courier-Post on Monday that he was informed by Camden Catholic High School President Mary Whipkey and Principal Heather Crisci on Friday that his teaching contract would not be renewed, and asked him to resign from coaching.
Strom also coaches golf at the school.
Strom told the paper he was informed of his termination as football and golf coach as well as being placed on administrative leave Monday evening.
Strom believes his firing stemmed from “not conforming with their viewpoints on what they want the student body and the football team to look like.”
“I’ve tried to build this program into one that’s based on kids being of ability, high character and high grades,” he said.
Strom argued that “from day one, the administration told me they did not approve of the ratio of black to white students,” noting that Whipkey brought up the topic of race roughly “10 to 20 times” since he was hired in 2013 as the football coach, according to the paper.
“When I’d have a list of potential freshmen, the first question I’d be asked is if they were white or black,” he told the paper. “I was confused about why the question was, ‘How can we get more white players in the program or on the field?'"
In a statement Monday morning, school officials called Strom’s allegations a ploy to “muddy the reasons for his dismissal with baseless accusations.”
“We do not comment on personnel matters, but it has come to our attention that he has chosen to muddy the reasons for his dismissal with baseless accusations against the school and administration," the statement read. "Any concern about racism or racial insensitivity is taken seriously and investigated fully."
That statement was underscored later in the afternoon by Whipkey, who told the paper the “accusations are not true."
Parents and football players protested in support of Strom Monday morning, with 22 students walking out of school in solidarity for their former coach, the paper reported.
The history teacher told the paper he was sent a letter on April 27 that listed reasons for the decision not to renew his contract, among which included allowing students to leave in the middle of class to hangout in other areas of the school – something Strom acknowledged, but called a non-issue.
Strom – who holds an impressive football record, losing just two games in South Jersey over the past four years -- said he plans on filing a grievance with the union regarding his contract, claiming that “none of this is remotely close to being egregious.”