Competition with New Prague resumes

Athletic department offers second chance

New Pragues gym banner returns to the wall of the gym. It was removed last year when Park ceased competition with New Prague.

Elena Ortiz-Fishman

New Prague’s gym banner returns to the wall of the gym. It was removed last year when Park ceased competition with New Prague.

Maren Wilsey

After the highly publicized conflict surrounding racist actions by New Prague athletic teams, Park made the decision to halt all competition with the school indefinitely. Now, several months later, the decision is being revisited. 

According to Park Athletic Director Andy Ewald, the suspension of play last winter was intentionally temporary — aimed to be revisited once clear actions had been taken.

“It was about really being direct with New Prague about wanting to see some movement from them. Time in and of itself wasn’t going to heal anything,” Ewald said. “Much like for us as a community in the school and district, we’ve got work that’s ongoing here — we wanted to know what work they were going to start doing to (put) more focus and energy intentionally into being anti racist.”

Senior Mason Amelse, who was on the boys hockey team at the time of the suspension, said he feels uncomfortable with the decision to resume competition. 

“I don’t really like it to be honest. They joined the conference just this past year and as soon as they joined there (were) a lot of problems with them,” Amelse said. 

Ewald said after seeing New Prague’s evidence for steps they’ve taken, the athletic department decided it was time to offer another chance. 

“(The plan) wasn’t just unique to athletics, it wasn’t just unique to their winter sports. It was with their student body as a whole, with their community, and even looking at professional development for their staff — not just their coaches, but their school district staff as a whole,” Ewald said. “With that, we felt that they’ve done what they needed to do to get us back to being able to compete this fall with them.”

Amelse said because of the history of behavior with teams all over the conference, a second chance may not be the best option.

“I do believe in second chances and stuff. But it’s not just what happened to our hockey team last year,” Amelse said. “There’s been (things with) other schools and New Prague and so right now I’m not the biggest fan.”

Senior Denly Lindeman said he believes the opportunity for growth is important, but swift action must be taken if there’s any possibility of repeat offenses. 

“When they first got kicked out, I was totally in favor of it — I mean (their behavior was) really inappropriate to our athletes. So it sounds like they’ve worked on stuff, which is good,” Lindeman said. “I think that it’s good to give them another chance, but if there are other issues then I mean, we’ve got to do it — you’ve got to cut them loose.”