One of the things that make sports so beautiful is that they are an example of people coming together from different walks of life all in the name of the team. Black, white, gay, straight, male, female, non-binary, it doesn’t matter – they’re are all playing for the name on the front of their jerseys. But, no matter how much of a “utopian” experience a locker room can be, they can’t serve as perfect environments of equality due to what many have endured just to get there.
That’s what happened to Tony Humphrey.
The 16-year-old Black baseball player has recently been in the news for his decision to walk away from a toxic environment at his former high school. The junior, who has already committed to play baseball at Boston College, has left Iona Prep in New Rochelle, N.Y., to return to play for a local high school after he alleges that an assistant athletic director told him that he gained his speed “by running from the police,” after Humphrey told him he was joining the track team to get faster.
“That was racist. There was no reason for him to say that,” said Humphrey about the incident.
“I decided to leave, because of my current situation, as I’m already committed. I’m already going to [college],” he explained. “I don’t feel like I have to stay at a program where they’re going to look at me different, or feel uncomfortable at a place I have to go to Monday through Friday.”
Unsurprisingly, this wasn’t the first time that a 16-year-old Black boy with dreadlocks playing a sport like baseball at a prep school had to deal with something like this. In this country, dealing with racism is something that Black people learn to navigate before we’re old enough to even understand what’s happening to us. Because while we may not have the right words at that moment, that initial feeling is a gut punch that never goes away.
“There were other instances of racism during my freshman year,” Humphrey explained. “I took it up with the dean, I took it up with the higher-ups, and nothing happened to the other student.”
In the aftermath of the situation, students walked out of the school in support of Humphrey and the assistant AD has resigned while the school is trying their best to stay quiet about everything in hopes that it will go away.
However, the real story here is that Tony Humphrey is just the latest “Tony Humphrey.”
Back in 2018, Justin Fields was in a similar situation when he left UGA for Ohio State stemming from a racist incident after a member of the school’s baseball team called him the N-word. A few months after that, we learned the name of Andrew Johnson after a video surfaced of the Black teenage high school wrestler in New Jersey being forced to cut his dreadlocks off by a racist white referee for him to compete.
Sometimes these stories get ignored or fly under the radar. And sometimes somebody pulls out their phone to record what happens because society prefers to ignore racism, while also acting as if hate only occurs when there’s a video to prove it.
What Tony Humphrey did as a 16-year-old was beautiful. But, not just because it proved that he understands his worth. But because it will inspire someone somewhere to do the same thing.