On Friday evening, September 22, Weld Central High School Varsity Football met Manual High School on the Denver football field. The Rebels dominated 48-12, but the victory was overshadowed by accusations of racism.
After the game, officials from Manual High School came forward with allegations against Weld Central (WC) of racial slurs and displays of the confederate flag. As rumors spread throughout the crowd, tensions rose to a level requiring an official escort from the field. WC students would later report that in a show of supposed retaliation, Manual students followed the WC bus for several miles, all the while engaging in lewd hand gestures. The following morning, Weld Central students awoke to publications from news stations reporting only Manual’s side of the story.
Although WC school officials took the quickest actions possible in order to update the community on the supposed incident, it wasn’t quite fast enough. Manual’s principal, Nick Dawkins, sent out a letter Saturday, September 23, informing the DPS community what he claimed happened on Friday Night. Emphasizing the fact that Weld Central has a Rebel mascot, Dawkins declared that the football team “displayed a Confederate flag during the first quarter of the game, offending many members of the Manual community.” He also reported that “the tension created by the flag led to conflict on and off the field.”Perhaps more concerning than Dawkins’ report were the headlines of the same day from one Fox 31 News article- “School Says Confederate Flag Raised at Football Game led to Injuries/Racial Slurs.” In reality, there were no documented injuries related in any way to racist actions or tensions. Injuries sustained on the field were the result of normal play.
Principal Dan Kennedy, the main authority at Weld Central who was not present at the game, jumped into action as soon as he heard about the allegations and the backlash surrounding them. Kennedy gained possession of a film of the game and attempted to find out what exactly happened. After reviewing the recording, he and Superintendent Rabenhorst released a statement. In this statement, Kennedy and Rabenhorst professed that they “felt it was important to update [their] community on the matter and strongly denounce any form of racism.” They maintained that Weld Central seemed to have been “unfairly represented,” as there was no evidence that a confederate flag had ever appeared in the film.
Coach Canaday is emphatic that video recordings of the event prove that the team did not present a Confederate flag at any time before, during, or after the game. He is firm on that answer, but says “if we [the Rebels] did do that, then I [Canaday] would suspend the whole football season”.
Following official school statements, even more slanted articles appeared on the news, and an endless stream of critical comments clogged social media. Despite the abundant criticism, those who know the WC staff and students best, were not convinced. Ms. Amen, the school librarian, didn’t hear about the incident until Monday morning, while she was preparing to leave for school and caught a tidbit on the news. While she was catching parts of the story from different people around the school, she recalls that there was an “extremely small percent of [her] hoping that one of our students or past students didn’t do something silly… I was praying to God it didn’t [happen].” As more information about the report came out, her initials fears were erased. She points out that if there was really a confederate flag at the football game, “it would be somewhere,” meaning that some student would surely have captured an image of the flag, considering how involved students are with social media. As a woman who has been working with Weld Central for 16 years, she “feel[s] that we are much better than that.
The chief desire of many of the students is to be able to move forward from this incident in a positive way. While an incredible amount of emotions were evoked from the accusations, it is a common want in the high school to put those feelings to rest. Although an urge to clear Weld Central High’s name was evident in the school’s statement, they did express a desire to work with Manual to resolve this issue.