Park suspends athletic competition against New Prague

Ewald, students come to joint decision


Ayelet Prottas

After a New Prague student made racist remarks toward a Park student at a boys’ hockey game Feb. 15, Park removed the New Prague banner from its wall. The banners hung on the wall represent all the schools in Parks’ athletic conference.

Andrea Melear

On the wall in the main gym now sits an empty space where the New Prague High School banner used to hang. According to athletic director Andy Ewald the empty space represents Park’s zero tolerance for racism in sports.

The banner removal happened after an incident at a hockey game in which a New Prague player made racist comments toward a Park athlete Feb. 15. Ewald said Park will no longer play against New Prague. Ewald made the decision after a meeting with spring captains and coaches Feb. 21.

“It was a handful of days of processing what happened and not rushing to making a rash decision,” Ewald said. “I didn’t want to make a decision as an adult without the students’ voice being part of it, because if our students would be impacted by this — if they weren’t supportive of it — it wouldn’t be something that I would do.”

During the call with spring captains and coaches, senior Emelia Johnson said she believes stopping upcoming competition with New Prague was the correct measure to follow.

“I think it’s the right action to take considering what they said. It’s not just one time. It’s numerous times with different teams,” Johnson said. “I just think it’s the right way to go.”

The incident is not the only offense reported concerning some New Prague athletes and fans. Robbinsdale Cooper’s girls’ basketball team reported being subjected to racist comments from the New Prague student section at the same time as the Park incident. New Prague superintendent Tim Dittberner made a statement regarding both incidents and said both cases were dealt with immediately. Echo reached out to Dittberner but was redirected to the statement and refused to further comment. 

Senior and hockey captain Jacob Favour said the team began taking prompt action to stop further competition with New Prague after the incident Feb. 15.

“Immediately after the incident, we were talking to Ewald in the office on and off all throughout the day and that was proposed. It was like ‘if they’re not going to take real steps to try and promote change or even put real consequences on their actions, then, they’re not going to play us in any sport until they change,’” Favour said. “Right now it’s just spring, but I’m sure if they don’t change anything, then we’re not going to play them ever.”

Honestly, I’d be okay with one less game if it means the girls on my team are safe physically and mentally.

— Emelia Johnson

Senior and tennis captain Marcus Hosfield said the removal of the banner has a deeper meaning beyond the lack of New Prague’s name in the gymnasium. 

“This shows that St. Louis Park doesn’t accept teams that are racist or have any discrimination among their players. We won’t tolerate it, and we won’t participate in any competition,” Hosfield said.  

Assistant principal Jessica Busse said she felt content with the actions Park had taken to strive for a more anti-racist environment. 

“I am extremely proud to be part of a district who stands up for their students and proud to work alongside Andy (Ewald),” Busse said. 

Following Parks’ decision to not play New Prague, Johnson said giving up a match is a willing sacrifice if it means prioritizing the well being of her teammates.

“I know it’s one less game but we’re trying to replace it. Honestly, I’d be okay with one less game if it means the girls on my team are safe physically and mentally,” Johnson said.

The cancellation of competition is not definite, but it will carry through at least the spring season. According to Ewald, although Park will not face New Prague one-on-one athletic events, he feels discarding conference meets with multiple participating schools would be more harmful to Park. 

“We’re filling those games with other non conference opponents. (With) things like a conference event, say track and field, there’s only one meet that counts. We’re still going to attend that because we don’t want to take recognition opportunities away from our teams or from our individual kids,” Ewald said. “So if it’s head-to-head, we’re just not going to play them.”

Robbinsdale District announced Feb. 23 it will not play New Prague. According to Johnson, she believes other organizations should follow similar actions.

 “The (Minnesota State High School League) should for sure suspend them just because there’s more than one team (that has spoken up) in different scenarios,” Johnson said. “The school itself should one be embarrassed by the way their students are acting. I think the actions they should take is a public apology.”