HOWELL, Mich. – High school officials in Michigan said they reprimanded students involved in posting racist messages on Twitter after a predominantly white basketball team defeated a team with black and white players.
Messages were posted after Howell beat Grand Blanc 54-49 in a Class A boys' regional final near Flint at Linden High School on Thursday, The Flint Journal reported. The Twitter posts referred to Howell's team being white and included Ku Klux Klan and Hitler references.
By Friday, the newspaper reported, the messages had been changed to apologies.
Howell High School Principal Jason Schrock said the school "responded to each instance and is moving forward." Students involved in the posts weren't affiliated with the school's basketball program, The Detroit News and WHMI-FM reported.
"We have addressed it with them and their families and we'd like to move on and focus on the positive things," Schrock said. "Unfortunately, even though both teams played their hearts out and worked hard all season, there were students on both sides that did some egregious things that they regret and those actions have started to overshadow the positive things that both sides are accomplishing."
Howell and surrounding Livingston County, located between Detroit and Lansing, have struggled to overcome a reputation for racism, earned in part because of a Klan grand dragon who used to live in the area. He would draw white supremacists from a wide area and held rallies that included cross burnings. The leader died in 1992.
Schrock said he hopes people in the Howell and Grand Blanc areas understand that what he believes were knee-jerk reactions of a few teens don't speak for all of Howell.
"A life lesson can be learned for these students without dragging a community's reputation through the mud," he said.
Grand Blanc Schools Superintendent Norman Abdella said he believes Howell administrators will appropriately handle the situation, but it is "hard to believe that the racial banality expressed through those messages even exists in this day and age." He told The Flint Journal: "It would be totally unfair to judge a district or a school based on the actions of individual students or supporters."