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La Grande quarterback Logan Williams runs past defenders along the sideline during a first-round state playoff matchup against Gladstone on Friday, Nov. 5, 2021.

LA GRANDE — The La Grande High School football team is under fire for alleged racism during a state playoff matchup.

An article from The Oregonian was published on Thursday, Nov. 11, describing allegations that members of the La Grande football team hurled racial slurs at Gladstone High School players throughout the first-round matchup at Eastern Oregon University on Nov. 5, a game La Grande won 34-12.

The ending of the game was atypical in a number of ways. Gladstone was penalized after an argument between the team’s head coach Cam Sommer and officials on the field with about a minute left in regulation. The game was paused for roughly five minutes as coaches and parents on the Gladstone side of the field argued with officials. Upon time expiring, the Gladstone sideline walked off without shaking hands or confronting the La Grande sideline.

This came as a result of what Gladstone players in The Oregonian article claim was a constant use of racial slurs by La Grande players during the competition.

Ricky White, a Gladstone senior, told The Oregonian that the racial slurs were a problem from the start of the game.

“Every Black person on our team heard (the slur) all game besides the one who was injured in the first quarter,” White told The Oregonian.

The La Grande School District released a statement on Nov. 12, which stated that the investigation is ongoing at this point. The school district is working with the Gladstone School District and the Oregon School Activities Association to get to the bottom of the issue and find facts on what transpired during the game.

“It is extremely concerning that our athletes have been accused of using racist language during the playoff game and our school district will continue to look into this situation,” La Grande Superintendent George Mendoza said in the press release. “The impact of racially charged language creates a great deal of strain in relationships and impacts a person’s sense of safety and belonging. Our goal and intention is to ensure every student-athlete feels safe, valued, understood and protected.”

The statement noted that both school districts and OSAA will continue working together on the matter. The entities involved are looking at game video and questioning players, officials and the chain crew to get more information.

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