The best news I’ve heard in a long while is that 3 Academic Magnet parents “filed a defamation lawsuit claiming characterizations of the team’s controversial postgame watermelon ritual damaged their [unnamed] sons’ reputations.”
The Academic Magnet is public charter school located in Charleston, South Carolina, where American Civil War began. Although a public school, blacks at Academic make up only 2,3% of the school’s population. According to a report issued by the school’s principal Judith Peterson, after the second game of the season, team members bought a watermelon from a roadside stand, and after they won the game, the team broke open the watermelon, cheered as a team, and ate the melon. To quote Principal Peterson, “as teams sometimes believe in superstition, the boys bought a watermelon for the next game, which the team also won.” Thus, the team concluded that pregame purchasing and postgame smashing of watermelons resulted in victory.
After defeating Military Magnet, a predominantly black school, the Academic Magnetic team returned to campus and, again quoting Principal Peterson, “ran with the melon into the AMHS Courtyard and threw the melon to the ground.”
[Note to Academic High School Teachers and Coaches. Perhaps you might want to introduce students to the logical fallacy post hoc; ergo, propter hoc.].
This self investigation does not include troubling details included in other reports, particularly by the City Paper (hence their being named in the lawsuit) that the students painted faces that could be construed as “caricatures” on the watermelons and made “grunting sounds” and wrote “Bonds Wilson” on one of the watermelons. Bonds Wilson was a historic black high school that once stood at the present site of Academic Magnet.
To quote Wikipedia, Protesters against African Americans frequently, among other things, hold up watermelons; racist imagery of President Barack Obama consuming watermelon has been the subject of viral emails circulated by political opponents. After his election, watermelon-themed imagery of Obama has continued to be created and endorsed.
The coaches were aware of the ritual but didn’t associate smashing watermelons after defeating predominately black teams with racism. An African American player on the team characterized the “grunting noises” as “football noises.” Principal Peterson referred to them as “chants.”
[Note to Academic High School History teachers: introduce a chapter in American History on racism and racial stereotypes].
Why do I say the law suit is good news, you wonder? Because it will make one hell of a movie, that’s why — Inherit the Wind meets Friday Night Lights. I’d cast Ned Beatty as Coach Walpole and Glenn Close as Superintendent McGinley. Plus, what a boon for watermelon growers in the Lowcountry as melon after melon would need to be busted in take after take. The growers may need the help since the Magnet has put a stop to “smashing a watermelon, cheering together, and eating pieces of the melon.”