Three football coaches from Hodgson Vocational Technical High School are speaking out about the way they were treated by the president of the Indian River School District Board of Education at a recent game.
Hodgson assistant football coaches Darrell Lockhart, Jason Bassette and Kyle Taylor were atop a press box at Sussex Central High School in Georgetown last Saturday night when a Hodgson player made an interception just before halftime. The three coaches, located above the press box on the Sussex Central side of the stadium, erupted into cheers.
This upset school board president Rodney Layfield, who was in the bleachers below wearing a jersey with his name on it, according to Bassette. Layfield, who is also a captain with the Delaware State Police, demanded the coaches stop cheering, and when one of them used profanity, said he would throw them out of the game. Audio of the exchange was captured during a live stream of the football game, though neither the coaches nor Layfield can be seen in the video.
“You ain’t from around these parts, boy,” Layfield said.
Lockhart, one of the coaches, said he was shocked.
“Knowing history and where I was at, in southern Delaware, I just felt like it was a threat,” he said.
Both the Indian River School District and Delaware State Police have confirmed they are investigating the incident. The school district said that the incident involved a Board of Education member, but did not identify Layfield by name. The supervisor of Communication and Engagement for the New Castle County Vocational Technical School District, of which Hodgson is a part, said in an emailed statement that the district was made aware the incident at Saturday’s game involved the president of their school board.
Layfield did not return phone calls and emails requesting comment for this story.
Audio of incident captured on game video
Some of the interaction was captured through the live stream video of the game shared on Youtube, though much of it is inaudible and the camera is focused on the football field.
“Hey! Coach, stop cheering! You’re guests up there, show some class!” a man, who the coaches and the New Castle County Vocational School District have identified as Layfield, can be heard yelling.
There’s an inaudible exchange and then Layfield says, “This ain’t New Castle County. Show a little respect.”
Some more inaudible words are exchanged, during which Lockhart later admitted he used profanity.
“Throw another ‘F’ bomb, you’re gone,” Layfield replied.
The coaches can be heard saying, “By who?”
“Me,” Layfield said. “Hey, you ain’t from around these parts, boy.”
Someone in the audience yells, “Here for the kids, please!” multiple times, and the audio becomes inaudible again.
‘It’s saying I’m less than you’
When halftime came, the coaches descended the bleachers. Lockhart said he approached Layfield, apologized for using profanity and shook his hand.
Layfield did not apologize, according to Lockhart.
“He continued to make it seem like it was my fault to begin with, so I … walked away,” Lockhart said.
Lockhart didn’t know Layfield’s roles with Indian River and state police at the time, he said, but it was obvious Layfield had “some pull.”
“Calling another man ‘boy,’ even outside of me being African American, it’s saying I’m less than you,” Lockhart said. “I’m not equal to you.”
Bassette said he went through a “roller coaster of emotions.”
“As an African American male, that ‘boy’ word is demeaning to me, even just as a male period,” he said. “It’s saying that I’m beneath you.”
On Sunday, Lockhart shared the video with audio of the incident on Facebook, where he received much support.
“Was this a football game, or a scene from Deliverance? Wow,” one person commented.
“This man really thinks he’s in 1962,” another wrote. “I’m sorry this happened…unfortunately I don’t know that anything will change for him because of the dynamics.”
Lockhart has since received a call from a Delaware State Police Internal Affairs investigator, he said.
State Police spokesperson India Sturgis said they are “actively looking into” the incident.
Coach Taylor, who is white, said he was also offended by the use of the word “boy.”
“Everybody wants to back the blue, but they gotta back everybody else first,” Taylor said. “You gotta look at everybody equally.”
Indian River School District spokesman David Maull said in a written statement they “sincerely apologize for the disruption this incident caused” and that the district is investigating.
Alexis Andrianopoulos, supervisor of communication and engagement for the New Castle County Vocational Technical School District, said in a written statement the language directed at Hodgson coaches was “highly inappropriate.”
“Since that time, we have been assured by the superintendent of Indian River that they are addressing the issue with their fan, whom we understand also serves as President of their School Board,” she wrote. “We appreciate the cooperation of our sister district and are confident the matter will be investigated appropriately.”