Can’t take it back – how saying the wrong word impacts everyone

Falling out-of-bounds in the realm of prep and college sports
Let 'em know

By Peter Koutroumpis

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – What you say can never be taken back.

The words and the tone of that sentence must be resonating loudly in the minds of two teenagers following a flurry of views, posts, re-posts, and hundreds of comments that started to surge Friday and has carried momentum into the Triangle area of a video depicting two Conestoga High School (Berwyn, Pa.) students in a social media video post uttering the N-word.

It outraged fellow students from the school to the point of using the power of social networks to not only identify the two but to specifically point out one in particular, Charlotte de Vries, was a verbal commit to the Tar Heels’ ACC champion and nationally-ranked field hockey team.

Not yet a college student-athlete, still a high school student-athlete

While various prep school field hockey internet sources listed de Vries as an incoming UNC recruit, a Triangle Sports Network (TSN) inquiry as to the accuracy of that information – being actively recruited and/or having been offered a scholarship – was neither denied or confirmed by a UNC spokesperson.

The email response from the University of North Carolina Athletic Communications Office was a simple one.

The statement read: “This video does not include a UNC student. We condemn the use of racial slurs in any setting.”

Social media incites reaction, action, and heightened expectations

On the face of it, a high school student-athlete along with a friend, unknown whether an athlete as well, did something very wrong.

And many who know about it, a number that is growing exponentially, are judging them accordingly.

In the eyes of many who very willingly sought to initiate their wheels of justice in motion in the vast social media space via Twitter and Facebook, the context and range of impact has extended hundreds of miles away.

Aside from imploring local school and district administrators to respond, numerous responses also called for UNC to take action, specifically tagging the University and field hockey program, and calling for a denial of admission and/or revocation of any athletic scholarship benefit to de Vries.

First steps

A post on a fellow student’s Facebook page indicated a letter was sent to parents and read to students over the school’s PA system by school principal Amy A. Meisinger.

An excerpt from the letter read: “Conestoga condemns all this and all forms of racist language. While this video was not made at school, it has hurt and offended many in our community. This is unacceptable behavior and it will not be tolerated. The school will investigate fully and apply consequences as appropriate.”

The student also indicated that both individuals had apparently been disciplined.

Next steps

Obviously for de Vries, a 2017 First Team PA All-Central recognition for helping her team, coached by mother Kerry (a former collegiate coach at Kent State and Wake Forest), to a fifth straight league championship will be very far in the distance of her mind right now.

The time and commitment she’s put into achieving success up to this point in her sport, in high school and as a junior national team member, must be further down on her priority list.

How will all this impact her and her family in their immediate community?

Obviously, many have made their judgement via social media, but what will be the next steps that she will have to take as her fellow students quickly ensured local media were informed on how they were dealing with it.

Impact and consequences

The incident made even those in the Triangle react.

Responses on Twitter from current UNC Students and alumni included that of former Tar Heels basketball player Nate Britt, not speaking officially for his alma mater, but responding with: “Nahhh not at my school. Gotta be gone.”

Let alone hoping to become a student-athlete, on scholarship or not, just getting into college at UNC or any other school for that matter at this point will be a challenge for de Vries.

The judgement of her from those close by and miles away has, and is being handed down the more the story spreads.

She has not responded in any way yet, at least anywhere searchable on social media, the very source which got her embroiled in this controversy.

She as one individual, along with another individual, uttered one word, the wrong word, and one that set off a chain reaction that will only continue until they return to the source they started all of this with and explain themselves.

They should press the record button once more and at the very least utter one other consequential word that may begin everyone on a more constructive and healing path than the one being followed.


Peter Koutroumpis: 401-323-8960, @pksport