El Capitan offers apology to St. Michaels community
An attempt to resolve a conflict in scheduling led to St. Michael Indian School abstaining from activities with El Capitan High following a supposed racist email sent by the school’s new athletic director, Derek Stransky.
“Yes, I’m in this situation with Carl (Adams) and other Native schools,” Stransky said. “I didn’t agree to this, so I’m assuming Smith (Timpson) did. Schools in Utah and Vegas are closer and better than Native schools to us at El Cap, so going forward, I would appreciate it if the Native schools weren’t added to our schedule without my permission.”
In response, Adams said St. Michael would not participate in any events with El Capitan and alerted other schools in the 1A division.
A day later, El Capitan’s Superintendent Carol Timpson apologized to Adams and all other email recipients, saying Stransky was being corrected and that the school did not have any negative sentiment toward any Native schools.
However, Adams said the school would continue to abstain from playing with El Capitan and is uncertain for how long.
In a previous interview, Adams said he wanted to keep the students and community safe from racism, and he feared that if an administrator like Stransky made such remarks, others might share such views. He is speaking out against the email to show such phrases or wording is not acceptable.
In a statement sent to the Times, El Capitan’s principal, Shauna Hammon, sent the following message, apologizing again for the email but also wanting to emphasize El Capitan does not tolerate any bigotry.
“We do not agree with these allegations,” she wrote. “The email in question was written in haste during a very stressful time for our athletic director. If he had taken the time to proofread his message, we believe he would have corrected his poor wording.
“Our district has a long productive history with the Native American people. We serve students from our local Paiute tribe. They bring a richness to our school culture.
“We have a Native American head football coach. Most of our Native American students are members of our athletic teams. We value and benefit from their participation.
“We promote good sportsmanship in our schools. Visiting teams are always welcomed and treated with a high degree of respect. Our governing board also advocates the district having procedures in place to keep fan behavior in check. I personally make an effort to be at all games and address any disrespectful behavior.”
Hammon said she spent over an hour speaking with Adams and SMIS President Dot Teso to assure them that El Capitan values its association and students. She will continue to talk with the school and try to resolve the issue.
In a new statement, Adams confirmed that they are in talks with El Capitan and he appreciates the effort, but he feels not much is being done to ensure this situation doesn’t happen again. He doesn’t want to get anyone fired, but he believes Stransky should be held accountable as his words are in writing and that the AIA needs to handle the situation.
“Basically they just told us that we apologize and we’re going work with AD and they tried to amend the relationship,” Adams said. “And we just told them that we don’t feel comfortable sending our students and our athletes, our coaches, our community members, our people to environment like that, especially if it’s being run by an athletic director that has those feelings towards Native schools. And so, and that’s basically what we told them and to be honest, it’s currently in AIA hands right now.”
Adams said his school and probably other native institutes have faced racial stereotypes or insults before and aside from an apology, nothing is done to ensure his students or community members wouldn’t endure needless bigotry again. Adams stressed that as native people, be it Navajo or another tribe, they display their culture and identity when they play or through any type of activity, so any racist comment feels like a personal attack. He feels action from the AIA would change that but had heard nothing from the association.
Surprisingly, El Capitan told him the AIA have been in contact with them and trying to reach solutions on their end but not SMIS despite Adams being the first to ask for help. He is unsure how things will end, but still wants the association to mediate and set a standard on handling racist incidents, especially since the AIA had vowed to uphold sportsmanship and in this situation Adams said such comments from a person in an administrative position undermines such pledges. He is certain if he had wrote such an email to El Capitan degrading their culture, background or religion, he’d probably would face consequences or maybe even lost his job.