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CEDAR RAPIDS — A boys’ basketball game between Fairfield and Iowa City High at Fairfield ended early Monday night after an on-floor altercation, with ensuing allegations being made of a “racially charged” comment directed toward City High’s head coach during the game by an official.
The Iowa City Athletic Officials Association said game officials are denying that accusation.
City High Principal John Bacon and Iowa City Community School District Superintendent Matt Degner sent an email to staff, students and families at the school Tuesday that was shared with The Gazette in support of Little Hawks Coach Brennan Swayzer.
Swayzer, who is Black, was ejected from the game in the second half after the alleged comment was made, as was a Little Hawks fan.
“We want to share details about an unfortunate incident that occurred at last night’s boys’ basketball game in Fairfield,” the email said. “During the game, an official directed a racially-charged comment toward our coach. The Iowa City Community School District never condones racism. We stand by our students and staff of color. We are also addressing an incident of physical aggression and helping our students learn better ways to handle a volatile situation.
“Due to the unsafe environment within the gym, our coaches decided to remove our student-athletes. Our team received a police escort to the locker room, out to the bus, and out of town. While this is certainly not how we wanted this game to play out, we are thankful that the situation was de-escalated and we could safely leave the school.”
The ICAOA said it supports a full investigation into the matter and backs the unidentified officiating crew, who are members of the association, founded in 1970 to provide officials for prep football, basketball, baseball softball games in the area.
“It's concerning that the school district would put out a statement accusing the on-court officials of making racially charged comments without first speaking to the officials or the association,” said the statement. “Accusations like this deserve to be fully investigated by the appropriate governing bodies, and we welcome such an investigation, and our members will fully cooperate.
“We have spoken to the officials involved, and they categorically deny making any such statements. In fact, it's completely out of character for all of them, and they are shocked and hurt by the accusation.”
The Iowa High School Athletic Association said Wednesday afternoon it is investigating the City High claims and the altercation that prematurely ended the game.
“We are still gathering information on the game from Fairfield and Iowa City High, and also the game officials,” said IHSAA Communications Director Chris Cuellar. “As always, we will continue communicating with those involved to learn more and will work with our member schools to facilitate resolutions.”
With two minutes remaining in the edgy game and Fairfield ahead 77-63, a foul was called on City High’s Evan Lampe on an out-of-bounds play underneath the City High basket, with Lampe proceeding to shove the player he fouled, Fairfield’s Tate Allen, to the ground and then appearing to push him again when Allen was on the ground.
Benches cleared, and the teams were sent to their respective locker rooms after order was restored. City High then decided it did not want to complete the game and, as the school’s email said, was securely escorted to its bus for the drive home.
“At the end of the Fairfield vs. Iowa City High boys’ varsity basketball game, there was an altercation between players that required coaches, officials and administration to safely intervene,” Fairfield Superintendent Dr. Laurie Noll said in a statement. “Teams were escorted to separate locker rooms for a five-minute break.
“During that time, the Iowa City High coaches determined it was best to forfeit the game. All students, coaches and fans left safely. Fairfield appreciates the help from fans, officials, coaches, and Iowa City High administration in attendance for their help in de-escalating the situation.”
Noll sent out another statement Wednesday, clarifying that police were called to the school’s gymnasium but never entered it, instead making sure City High’s team could safely get to its bus. An Iowa State Tropper escorted the bus out of town.
“FCSD is aware that Iowa City, City High School administration has contacted the Iowa High School Athletic Association regarding allegations surrounding the communication between game officials and the City High basketball coaches,” Noll’s statement said. “FCSD is willing to provide any information that might be able to assist in an investigation.”
Bacon said in a text he could not publicly comment further on the allegation or on-court incident. Swayzer was not at City High’s game Tuesday night at Linn-Mar, nor was Lampe.
Linn-Mar beat the Little Hawks, 73-58.
“I don’t know, I want to say no comment, and that’s more because I don’t want that to take away from where our team is going,” City High assistant coach/acting head coach Frederick Newell said, when asked about Monday. “It was a rough night. I think that if there were some things that we could do over, absolutely we would. But we can’t, so we just move forward.”
Newell was asked if he heard what was allegedly said to Swayzer.
“It was crazy. That’s all I can say,” Newell said. “I can’t be specific at this point. I would just let them take care of what they have to take care of. But I will tell you, we stand with Coach Swayze. An amazing man, an amazing father, an amazing coach. I’ll ride with him the rest of the way.”
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