NEW BRITAIN – Schools Superintendent Nancy Sarra issued a written statement Tuesday to address a controversial situation that occurred at a Division II boys basketball state tournament quarterfinal game Friday between New Britain High School and Wilton High School. A video posted to social media sites, including Instagram, shows Wilton fans in the bleachers at the Wilton High gym chanting as a New Britain player attempts a foul shot.
Some at the game contend Wilton fans were chanting “blackface” at a New Britain player, who is African American. But a Herald sports reporter who covered the game on Friday said he believes the fans were actually chanting “leg day,” a reference to the player’s skinny legs.
The player who was taking the foul shot said Tuesday night he heard chanting when he was at the free throw line, but was focused on the game and didn't know what was being said. He added that didn't know what was going on until after the game
“We are extremely saddened and disheartened to see these actions and behaviors persist in our communities and appreciate Wilton Superintendent Kevin Smith’s willingness to take the issue seriously,” Sarra said in the statement.
The sound quality of the video clip is poor, and several people who commented on the post on social media were split on what words were used in the chant.
“I’m so disgusted and mad that my team was being treated this way. Action needs to be taken. ASAP,” tweeted New Britain High School senior Samantha Foligno.
“I’d also like to point out the fifth and sixth fans in from the right in the front row. One is clearly pointing to his legs while the other does fake squats. Clearly leg day and you know it. Disgraceful,” tweeted August Theoharides, a Wilton High School senior.
According to Sarra, Wilton Schools Superintendent Kevin Smith emailed an apology to her on Sunday. “We accept Wilton’s apology in words and look forward to apology in action,” she said.
“We had conversations over the last few days and he was very responsive,” Sarra said. “We talked not just what was said, but about what we should do about it. We are putting our kids around the table and we want to hear their voices. We can talk about inclusivity, but we have to model what we mean.”
New Britain Athletic Director Len Corto declined to comment to The Herald about the incident, but told the Wilton Bulletin newspaper he didn’t hear exactly what was being chanted. He told the Bulletin that Wilton High Athletic Director Chris McDougal, put the staff by the bleachers and the chants stopped.
New Britain head basketball coach Kurt Reis also declined to comment on Tuesday.
Calls to Smith went unanswered.
“This looks like targeting of these kids. I have watched all season and they are great representatives of their school and community!” said twitter user @gg06905.