N Word Chant Gets Girls Basketball Team Suspended

PHOTO: Tyra Batts of Kenmore East High girls varsity basketball team
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The entire girl's basketball team of Kenmore East High School is sitting out a suspension over a pre-game chant that featured the N-word.

Eleven players are suspended from school for two days for the racially insensitive chant. The one player who wasn't suspended for the chant -- the team's only black player -- was suspended from school for five days for fighting with another player over the use of the N word.

The controversial pre-game chant that the Bulldogs performed in the locker room went, "One, two, three, n****r."

Tyra Batts, 15, heard the chant before the first game of the season against Sweet Home High School earlier this month.

Batts, a sophomore who is black, told the Buffalo News she felt outnumbered.

"I would argue about it ... and they would tell me they're not racist, it's just a word, it's not a label," she said.

After the Dec. 2 incident, the 11 girls who used the slur were suspended for two days and are currently serving that suspension, according to a school spokesman. In addition, they will attend cultural sensitivity training, and serve a one-game suspension at a date yet to be determined. The good sportsmanship trophy from last year has been rescinded.

Batts, who joined the varsity team this year, told the Buffalo News the chant has been going on for "more than five years."

But a school spokesman told ABCNews.com the former basketball coach was a man who never knew about the chant because it was always done in the locker room and never in front of adults or spectators.

This year, the girls' new varsity basketball coach is a woman, Kristy Bondgren. She did not immediately respond to an interview request from ABCNews.com.

Stefan Mychajliw, a spokesman for the Kenmore-Town of Tonawanda School District, said adults at the school found out about the chant after Batts engaged one of her teammates in a fight.

"There was a practice the Monday after [the Dec. 2 game] where there was a confrontation with the young woman and another teammate concerning the chant," he said. "That's how adults first found out about it. Administrators wanted to know, 'Why would two teammates engage in a physical altercation at a practice?' That's when adults found out exacty why this woman [Batts] was upset."

Mychajliw said the school believes the bizarre chant started last year.

"It's our understanding that there was an African-American student and white student who said it to one another last year together, what they perceived to be a joke," he said. "This is no laughing matter, it is not a joke. It's serious."

For Batts, however, the injustice wasn't simply the slur she experienced prior to the game. It was the way her teammates treated her during practice.

She told the Buffalo News that during practices she endured several racially charged insults from a teammate.

Batts threw that teammate into a locker, choked and punched her, the Buffalo News reported.

"I took out my frustration on her at school second period and then I got suspended for five days," she told the newspaper.

Now Batts is thinking about switching to the junior varsity team.

Amber Schurter, a senior who was on the varsity basketball team last year, told ABC News affiliate WKBW the team's unusual pre-game ritual wasn't meant to be racist.

"We would all go into the locker room before the game, and we would chant 1 2 3 then we would say the N word," said Schurter, who is bi-racial.

"If you don't know the people on the team, then obviously you're going to probably think this a little weird and you're going to look at them as kind of racist, I guess, but I know that they're not."

But Amber's mother, Pamela Schurter, told the TV station, the girls "definitely should not have started their games that way."

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