Niagara Gazette

December 21, 2013

NT student makes lynching threat at KW basketball player

By Michael Regan
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — A North Tonawanda High School student has been suspended after tweeting a racist message during a varsity basketball game last week threatening to “lynch” a Kenmore West basketball player who is black.

“Hey #11 for ken west I will find you and lynch not just you but your family too,” the tweet read, before trailing off into an expletive and a racial slur during North Tonawanda’s 61-51 loss.

The tweet was directed at Terrell Ford, a sophomore multi-sport athlete at Ken West.

North Tonawanda High School Principal James Fisher and Athletic Director Cynthia Bullis issued a statement Friday, a week after the incident took place, indicating that an immediate investigation ensued, and that the suspension was issued to the student in line with the district’s code of conduct.

“One of our students, a non-athlete, electronically transmitted a racially insensitive and threatening message to a student-athlete from another school,” the statement said. “An immediate investigation was conducted by the NTHS school administration (and) confirmed the identity of the student, who admitted responsibility for sending the offensive message. The student has been held accountable for harassment (and) suspended from school.” 

But James Mallory, Ford’s brother, said he was informed the suspension was for five days and said it did not go far enough to address the comment. Mallory said his family has contacted an attorney and is considering pursuing legal action.

“A five-day suspension, I don’t think that justifies the type of thing that has (been) done,” said Mallory, adding that his family became aware of the tweet before arriving home from the game Dec. 13. “It wasn’t just a racial slur, it was a death threat against my brother and my family.”

Fisher said district policy prohibited him from releasing the exact terms of the suspension but did say the most severe penalty for “harassment” was as long as five days.

The tweet caused the North Tonawanda basketball team and its coach, Ryan Mountain, to send a letter of apology to Ford and the Kenmore West team, signed by all of the North Tonawanda players, Fisher said.

Mallory, a 2005 Kenmore West graduate who is a former NFL player for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and was recently inducted into the Ken West Hall of Fame, said he did not take issue with the team, whose players were not involved — only the student who tweeted the comments.

“They sent a very nice, sincere letter,” Mallory said of the team. “It shows a lot of class.”

Ford, 15, who has been a varsity player for the school’s basketball team in his freshman and sophomore years, is also considered a top college prospect for his athletic abilities on the football field.

Mallory said he reached out to “administrators from both districts,” but did not receive a response from those in North Tonawanda. The family will continue weighing its legal options this week.

“They’ll probably go through with it,” he said, of legal action.