RALPHO TOWNSHIP, NORTHUMBERLAND COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — What was supposed to be a weekend of celebration quickly turned into a controversy.
An investigation is now underway after word of alleged racist conduct spread like wildfire on social media.
Applause filled the Ralpho Township gym Friday night as Southern Columbia celebrated a sixth consecutive high school football state title win.
The Tigers defeated the predominantly black western Pennsylvania football team, the Westinghouse Bulldogs, 37-22 in Mechanicsburg.
“We played an undefeated team from Pittsburgh, and it was probably one of the best teams we ever played in a state championship game,” said Jim Roth, head coach of the Southern Columbia Tigers football team.
During the postgame pep rally, eyewitness news saw a woman take one of the homemade signs down without explanation. It read “Whip Westinghouse” with a drawing of a black whip.
The controversy continued with a TikTok video surfacing on social media Saturday, showing who are believed to be two Southern Columbia football team members holding up a PIAA sign while an audio clip can be heard with a racial slur.
A statement from the Pittsburgh Public Schools read:
The District is aware of photos and a video circulating in social media that feature Southern Columbia football players and cheerleaders displaying racial slurs, as well as racially offensive and inappropriate rhetoric. We are greatly dismayed and hurt by the images. This type of egregious and unsportsmanlike behavior is unacceptable. Upon receipt of the images, Pittsburgh Public Schools officials reported the displays to the PIAA for immediate action and investigation and will follow up with an official report in writing.
We are focused on the needs of any student impacted by the images and will be prepared to provide support to students when they return to school on Monday.Pittsburgh Public Schools Statement
Southern Columbia Area Superintendent James Becker responded to the controversy with his own public statement that read:
“The Southern Columbia Area School District has been made aware of allegations regarding incendiary remarks and behavior posted in a video along with signs posted at a community pep-rally. The Southern Columbia Area School District does not condone nor tolerate any form of racism or harassment. Please know, this matter is currently under investigation by the school administration and the District has full intention of upholding the Code of Conduct outlined within the student and extracurricular handbooks.”Superintendent Becker said in an online release
PIAA Executive Director Robert Lombardi issued a statement to Eyewitness News that read:
“We want to give the school an opportunity to do their research. This is something that is tremendously disturbing. It doesn’t belong in the interscholastic athletic world and it’s not going to be tolerated. We will review what [Southern Columbia] submits to us. If it’s acceptable, it will end there. If it’s not, we will request a hearing in front of the board of directors.”PIAA Executive Director Robert Lombardi
While the investigation is ongoing, this is what junior louden murphy had to say about his fellow teammates during Friday night’s pep rally.
“We’re all great guys, we all help each other, we all make each other better. We’re all trying to do the best we can,” said Louden murphy, Southern Columbia RB/S/OLB.
At this time it remains unclear who exactly made the sign in question.