Boston-area high school football team had long history of antisemitic behavior, report finds


(Jewish Journal-Massachusetts via JTA) — A suburban Boston high school football team that had come under fire earlier this year for using Holocaust and Jewish phrases to call plays – “Auschwitz,” “rabbi” and “yarmulke” among them – had been employing similar antisemitic language for at least the last decade.

That was the conclusion of an investigation into the incident involving Duxbury High outlined in a summary of the report by the superintendent of the district schools and posted June 10 to the school’s website.

According to the summary by John Antonucci, the team has called the plays with antisemitic language since at least 2010, used homophobic slurs and profanity on the sidelines, and regularly held a Catholic Mass before games for years in violation of the U.S. Constitution, the Massachusetts Constitution and court rulings that preclude sectarian instruction in public schools.

The full report could not be released, Antonucci’s summary said, because of privacy concerns under state law. The main report focused on the actions of players and coaches, as well as the general culture of the football program, and included interviews with 52 witnesses, including current and former coaches and players, along with parents, teachers and administrators.

“Duxbury let their players and the community down by allowing winning games to take precedence over fostering an environment that is inclusive and free of bias, slander and stereotyping,” said Robert Trestan, the Anti-Defamation League’s New England regional director. “Pregame religious services violate Constitutional protections and ignore the power imbalance between students and their coaches. The systemic problem documented in the report confirms the need for institutional change.”

Trestan said the ADL was working with district officials as changes are implemented.

The report was part of an investigation commissioned by the town after school officials learned that a Duxbury player had called out a play termed “Auschwitz” in a March 12 game. Later that month, the school district fired the football coach, Dave Maimaron, who told the Boston Herald that some of the chants had been started years ago by Jewish football players as a “tongue-in-cheek” gesture.

According to the report, “antisemitic words and other references to the Holocaust by members of the football program,” including “rabbi,” “dreidel,” “yarmulke” and “Hanukkah,” were “a systemic issue and had happened at practices potentially as far back as 2010. Sufficient credible evidence was found to support the conclusion that coaching staff were aware of the use of such terms during practices.”

The report identified several “corrective actions” for the district to implement. They include reviewing the athletic program and its handbook, coaching evaluations and business functions. In addition, an Athletic Advisory Committee has been established to review and make recommendations about the athletic program. Some coaches have participated in diversity, equity and inclusion training program. Also, a group of coaches and players will take part in a training by Northeastern University’s Center for the Study of Sport in Society.

“I am glad the school released a report about the Duxbury High School football team’s use of antisemitic terms,” said Karen Wong, a Duxbury resident who is one of an estimated 60 Jews in the small coastal town. “Emotions in the community are running high.

“I was surprised and disappointed to learn that religious prayers and attending Mass were blended into the culture of a public-school sports program. While participation was optional, it is very difficult for student-athletes to opt out of events that are meant to be team building.”

Read the report here.

A version of this story originally appeared in the Jewish Journal-Massachusetts.

Recommended from JTA