The Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association is investigating a report that a racial slur was directed toward a STEM Prep girls basketball player by an official on Wednesday night during a game against Smyrna High School.

STEM Prep of Nashville is calling for the permanent suspension of the referee who allegedly used the “N-word,” stating multiple students and parents witnessed the incident.

“This incredibly offensive, racist event underscores the institutional racism that exists within athletics, as well as within the TSSAA organization,” STEM Preparatory Academy CEO Dr. Kristin McGraner wrote in a letter to the TSSAA. “As this is not the first incident of systemic racism within TSSAA, we call for a review of official screening and hiring practices, the code of conduct governing the behavior of all employees and contracted officials, and sustained Diversity, Equity and Inclusion training led by a qualified external party.”

TSSAA Executive Director Bernard Childress, who confirmed on Thursday the organization had launched an investigation into the incident, has the authority to “suspend registration of an official who is guilty of unsportsmanlike or unethical conduct,” per the TSSAA bylaws.

“As clearly seen on the game tape, and as shared by witness accounts, the white male referee approached the 14-year-old black female player in an aggressive manner and called her the N-word,” McGraner continued. “For our athletes to go to a school-sanctioned event and be dehumanized by an adult official is traumatizing, and our entire school community is in pain, particularly our Black and Brown students who experience systemic racism every day in this world. We demand better of TSSAA, and we demand they take extensive action to both correct the harm done and prevent an incident like this from ever occurring again.” 

Following the incident, the STEM Prep girls team walked off the court and the boys game was not played. Currently, the result of both games is listed as a STEM Prep forfeit, but that could change pending the outcome of the TSSAA investigation.

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