wdiv logo

Ann Arbor Pioneer forfeits varsity football game against Bedford over claims of racial slurs during JV match

Game was scheduled for Friday night

Ann Arbor Pioneer team takes stand against racism
Ann Arbor Pioneer team takes stand against racism

ANN ARBOR, Mich.Pioneer High School’s varsity football team was supposed to host Bedford Friday night, but the game never happened.

Ann Arbor Pioneer forfeited after refusing to play out of protest, alleging Bedford’s players used racial slurs during Thursday’s junior varsity game.

“There’s no reason that this should have happened. It is unacceptable. No one should have to accept it. I’m not going to,” said Pioneer head coach Jimmy Williams. “Thursday night, our players -- our JV football team -- were subjected to being called (the N-word) for pretty much the first half of the game.”

Read: Wolverine football returns to Ann Arbor with precautions in place to keep fans safe

Williams said his junior varsity coach reported the incident to him. On Friday, he announced his team wouldn’t play the game against Bedford High School.

“I made a decision that we would protest the game as a staff, as a group of players. There’s no way whatsoever that I would allow our players to be subjected to that kind of treatment. My job is to protect these young men, to develop these young men and to make this a great experience and that didn’t happen,” he said.

Williams said he talked to his players, wanting to hear what they thought and how they felt.

“What they experienced, we can’t change that. That’s going to be a part of them for the rest of their lives. I can’t change that ... I’m hurting that my kids were hurt by that. That hurts me to the core,” he said.

Bedford Public Schools Superintendent Carl Shultz released the following statement:

“As Superintendent of Bedford Public Schools, I take any allegations of racial or any other type of intimidation very seriously. During last evening’s JV football game between Bedford High School and Ann Arbor Pioneer, an allegation was made that a BHS player made a racial comment toward an Ann Arbor player.

“This allegation was immediately investigated based on the information provided by Ann Arbor Pioneer Athletic Administration. BHS has requested additional information regarding the incident and has yet to receive any written statements or investigation notes with further details. BHS Athletic Director Mark German spoke with game officials after the contest and was told that the alleged incident was not heard by the officiating team and that it was reported to them by the Pioneer coaching staff. It is our hope that we can work with Ann Arbor Pioneer Administration to complete a comprehensive investigation using factual information to develop a full understanding of any alleged inappropriate behaviors.

“I have been inundated this evening with social media posts and media reports that provide inaccurate information regarding last evening’s game. Contrary to statements made that the game included multiple BHS player ejections, I can confirm that no players were ejected from either team.

“This evening’s Varsity competition between BHS and AA Pioneer involved students that were preparing for tonight’s game while the JV Game was taking place. The forfeiture is unfortunate for those scheduled to play this evening and I would hope that in the future, a more aligned investigation can take place where facts are shared to ensure that a professional and complete investigation can ensue. It is disappointing to learn that tonight’s contest was canceled to make a statement regarding the treatment of Pioneer athletes by all teams and not specifically associated with yesterday’s alleged incident. I am confident that if timely and appropriate communication had taken place, our teams could have participated in a game that would allow for a strong showing of sportsmanship. The one thing that is clear is that there is no place in high school athletics, or any other setting, for the type of behavior being alleged.”

Carl Shultz, superintendent of Bedford Public Schools

Read: Michigan high school coaches train to spot, help athletes with mental health struggles


About the Author:

Larry Spruill Jr. joined the Local 4 News team in January 2018. Prior, he worked at WJAX in Jacksonville, Florida. Larry grew up as a military kid because his father is a retired Chief of the United States Air Force.