Olympia School District apologizes after students yell racial slurs at Black basketball player

OLYMPIA, Wash. — The Olympia School District apologized after some students at a Capital High School basketball game yelled racial slurs, which were caught on video, at a Black player from an opposing team.

The incident happened Friday night when Capital played against Lacey’s River Ridge High School.

KIRO 7 spoke with the father of the player who was the target of the slurs.

Qayi Steplight, who grew up in Olympia and attended River Ridge, said he’s no stranger to racist attitudes in Thurston County.

In a video watched hundreds of times on social media, some students can be heard making gorilla noises and shouting other remarks at the player.

“I remember walking in downtown Olympia with some of my friends and we were getting called monkeys and gorillas,” said Steptlight. “And when I saw it, it was just like déjà vu all over again.”

Steplight said he was at the game watching his son, number 3, Ahmari play.

“It’s kind of ironic how it’s come full circle and now it’s my son dealing with this — head-on,” Qayi Steplight said.

Somehow, Steplight said he never heard the chants during the game. It was only the next day when Steplight said he saw the video, which he said was posted on Instagram by a Capital High student who tagged his son.

About five days later, Olympia Schools superintendent Patrick Murphy apologized, sending out a message to families that read in part:

“Incidents like this do harm to our entire community - however, the brunt of the blow can be especially felt by our community members who are black ... Specifically the term gorilla is used to describe the opposing player who is Black - comparing Black people to monkeys has a long, sinister racist history in our society.”

“I usually block out the crowd when I play,” said Ahmari Steplight.

Ahmari said he is not letting the incident get him down but is instead channeling it into motivation.

While he was in Geometry class on Thursday, he said he got pushback from a classmate.

“Basically she was just saying if you look like something, then you look like something, you shouldn’t just really take it to heart,” said Ahmari.

“I think what needs to happen is there needs to be a lot of education because what I’m seeing is that it’s being taught at home. There are a lot of families that feel this is something going to pass on to the kids,” Qayi Steplight said.

Qayi Steplight visited Capital High and filed a complaint.

He said administrators at the school personally apologized. He appreciated the apology but believes more action is needed and suggested that the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association could step in and institute a penalty.