NewsLocal NewsCuyahoga County

Actions

Lake Catholic lacrosse team disciplined after swastika painted on back of player's leg

Coach has resigned
poster_5cde537ab58a451d9eebd5eb0aa8fd2f.jpeg
Posted at 12:19 PM, May 25, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-26 08:52:34-04

CLEVELAND — Following an investigation into the Lake Catholic High School lacrosse team for a May 16 incident where a player stepped onto the field with a swastika painted on his leg during a game against Orange High School, the Diocese of Cleveland announced the team will face discipline over the matter. Additionally, the team's head coach has resigned.

In a joint statement, Lake Catholic High School and the diocese said they worked to gather all the facts as "quickly as possible, with the goal of being to appropriately publish wrongdoing."

"The Diocese of Cleveland and Lake Catholic High School condemn anti-Semitism in all forms, and we extend our most sincere apologies to the Orange High School community and to all Jewish and non-Jewish community members alike for the hurt that has resulted from this incident," the statement read before revealing the findings below:

What happened

Based on available evidence, prior to the game, a Lake Catholic player, in an attempt to play a prank on three of his teammates, drew a swastika on his hand with eye black and pressed his hand on the arms of two players and the back calf of a third player.

Two players with the pressed mark of the swastika on their arm noticed it before the game and rubbed it off. The third player with the swastika mark on his calf was unaware of it when he stepped on the field and found out about it when another person brought it to his attention. His other teammates helped him remove it from his leg.

The diocese said the player who stamped the mark on three of his teammates has “cooperated fully in the investigation, has expressed sorrow at his actions and the hurt caused a result, and is willing to accept responsibility for his actions.”

At the end of the investigation, the diocese said it was unable to find any evidence that a Lake Catholic player said any anti-Semitic slur or remark despite commentary to the contrary.

“Although it was alleged in a secondhand account that a player for Orange reported hearing a Lake Catholic staff member use an anti-Semitic slur during the game, no eyewitness came forward to testify or provide a statement about this allegation and no official, coach, or athlete reported hearing it. Consequently, we were unable to determine whether this occurred,” the joint statement said.

After the game, an adult associated with Lake Catholic who was acting as a team photographer used coarse and profane language towards individuals associated with Orange High School.

The diocese further revealed that it was alleged that an unidentified person uttered or shouted an anti-Semitic slur after the game had ended. However, the person who reported hearing the slur couldn’t identify the person who said it. The diocese said it found no one else who heard the slur.

Video with audio of the game and its aftermath were reviewed, and those too, revealed no evidence to corroborate the report, the diocese said.

Disciplinary actions

The player, a senior, who put the mark on his teammates was prohibited from participating in commencement exercises and will not receive his diploma and final transcript until he completes community service assigned by the school and participates in a program developed by the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage.

The entire 2022 lacrosse team will be required to attend the program developed by the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage in the coming weeks. It’s the same program the senior lacrosse player who put the mark on his teammates will have to attend. The program will feature instructive and restorative elements. Graduated seniors will not receive their final transcripts until completion of the program.

The existing curriculum will be changed with more programming to further “promote a culture of love and respect based on the truth that each and every person has inherent dignity as a child of God who is made in His image and likeness.”

The adult photographer who used profane language will be prohibited from acting in an official capacity for the school in the future.

“This incident reminds us all that sin and its consequences are a reality of the human experience and that actions have very real consequences. We pray for all those who have experienced hurt as a result of what occurred. We pray also that those at fault, in a spirit of humility, learn to grow in kindness, love, and good judgment. Finally, we pray for healing and forgiveness so that from this experience we might overcome division and grow closer as a human family, " the diocese
said.

Family of student releases statement

On Wednesday afternoon, an spokesperson representing the family of one of the players released a statement saying that a swastika was placed on their son without his knowledge. The statement also disputes allegations made online and in news reports that the player taunted the opposing team with antisemitic slurs.

News 5 never identified the student by name or team number, or showed his photo, or reported allegations that the student used an antisemitic slur. Our report included only the claim that an adult at the game used a slur, an allegation later confirmed by the Diocese of Cleveland. While this statement does not apply to News 5's reporting, it is included in full below so that community members are aware of what the family calls false allegations being made about the student on social media and elsewhere.

Statement on Behalf of the Family of the Lake Catholic Lacrosse Player Incorrectly Accused of Perpetrating an Anti-Semitic Incident

The display of a swastika on a young Lake Catholic lacrosse player’s calf last Monday night at the Lake Catholic – Orange High School lacrosse game was a despicable act and an outrage to the community. Lake Catholic completed its investigation and has confirmed what the young player’s family knew all along -- that the swastika placed on their sophomore son was done so without his knowledge or consent by a senior player, who has since confessed to the appalling act.

The school completed its investigation, and the sole responsible party, the senior player, provided a written account detailing his actions, taking full responsibility, and apologizing to the school for his conduct. The young player’s family is thankful that this investigation has now cleared their son’s name.

The young player that was marked with the swastika has been identified by name and photo on social media as being the perpetrator of the incident, despite the fact that it isn’t true. Also, contrary to initial reports in the media and online, the young player never taunted members of the opposing team or called them antisemitic slurs. In fact, the investigation confirmed that no one from the opposing team has even accused the young player of that.

As a result of the misinformation in initial news reports and online, the young player’s family has endured much undeserved criticism and blame. They are sickened that the young player was in any way involved – even unknowingly – in an incident that has, and will, continue to cause fear, hurt and anger throughout the Jewish community and beyond. They do not condone hate speech in any form, and the swastika placed on their son’s leg was not just a violation of his body, but wholly outside his character and outside the morals and principles that his parents have worked hard to instill in him throughout his life.

The family fully supports all plans for further education to help young people truly understand the history of the Holocaust and all other curriculum designed to teach and promote compassion towards all people.

What happened to the young player is inexcusable and damage from the widespread and untruthful accusations have devastated his entire family. It is their hope that they will be allowed the space and time to fully heal.

This will be the only official statement from the young player’s family now that the senior player has come forward.
Stephanie York, esq., Hennes Communications

RELATED: Orange lacrosse players say Lake Catholic player had swastika on leg, according to superintendent

Download the News 5 Cleveland app now for more stories from us, plus alerts on major news, the latest weather forecast, traffic information and much more. Download now on your Apple device here, and your Android device here.

You can also catch News 5 Cleveland on Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, YouTube TV, DIRECTV NOW, Hulu Live and more. We're also on Amazon Alexa devices. Learn more about our streaming options here.