DUXBURY – For my husband and me, among the most important attributes we wanted to instill in our children were having a strong moral compass and good character. It wasn’t always easy for us or for our children. It was painful to watch them make missteps and then face the consequences, but it made them better people as adults. In our small town of Duxbury, the notion that the high school football team can simply move on from casually using anti-Semitic terms in its playbook without publicly acknowledging the wrongdoing and issuing an apology is counter to what I would expect from caring families who I know want the best for their children.
Our son is an officer in the Air Force, and he is tested every day to make good decisions and be accountable for what he does. In his work, alone in a cockpit, the actions that he takes have far reaching consequences. He played football at Duxbury High School under the leadership of former coach Dave Maimaron and loved being on the team. He learned many good lessons, but that was before anti-Semitic play calls were used. There were, however, many instances in high school and later at the Air Force Academy where he had to face consequences based on his actions or those of others. The actions he was held accountable for as a teenager are at the foundation of who he is as a man. I share this background to explain that my views on decisions being made in the wake of the DHS Varsity Football team’s use of anti-Semitic play calls do not only hurt because my family is Jewish but because the adults responsible could have done better leading the players.
It is possible that not all members of the varsity football team knew about the anti-Semitic play calls, but they are part of the team and part of the Duxbury High School football program. Sports, like football, embody the ideal of teamwork, dedication to purpose, and leadership. When the team wins a state championship, all members of the football program are recognized for the accomplishment. By the same token, all the players must stand as a team when things do not go well.
As a result of the of the use of anti-Semitic terms, some of the players met privately with Rabbi Cohen and State Senator Finegold. The whole team then listened to the family of a Holocaust survivor, after which the DHS newsletter spoke on behalf of the boys and basically said that they get it and are ready to resume play. But how can they resume play when the players and remaining coaches have not issued an apology to the community or the Jewish people who were hurt by trivializing the Holocaust? What character does that show? I’ve said publicly that I hope we aren’t judged by the use of anti-Semitic language on the field but instead, by how we handle it.
I am disappointed. I am disappointed that current and former players and their parents won’t come forward publicly to talk about what happened. I’m disappointed at the lost opportunity for the boys to grow from this experience, correct a wrong, and make amends to the community and their fellow classmates who have also been impacted by their actions. I am disappointed that the administration is allowing the program to restart while the investigation is active, and the team hasn’t made an apology. I am heartbroken that the reputation of Duxbury is being further harmed by these decisions. The eyes of the commonwealth, country, and even world are on us (this story has been carried in Europe and Israel).
For parents who are afraid that if their sons are associated with a team apology it will harm their chances of getting into a college, I would argue that the lack of an apology will have a negative impact on how colleges see them and will certainly impact how others view our community and schools. There is still an opportunity for us to get this right, to be able to move on from this sad episode. But it needs to start with the football team taking responsibility, correcting the wrong, and becoming what they aspire to be.
Karen Wong is a photographer and lives in Duxbury.