WNBA players speak out in support of high school student-athletes after allegations that game cancelled due to BLM t-shirts [Updated]

Erica Wheeler spoke up for the students.
Erica Wheeler spoke up for the students.
Image: Getty Images

Update: This story has been updated with statements from American Heritage-Delray School that conflict with initial reports, and with allegations reported in The Palm Beach Post.

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Two Florida high school girls saw their scheduled basketball game suspended Thursday because they dared to wear Black Lives Matter t-shirts, one of the girls’ parents alleges. Enter the WNBA, which, upon hearing about this alleged injustice, came to the teens’ aid.

Tensions were high at American Heritage-Delray School, near Fort Lauderdale, after a racial slur was posted in a virtual class chat several weeks ago, according to Khristina Williams of Girls Talk Sports TV. The person who used the racial slur was not disciplined by the school as the school says the individual is not a student at their school.

In response to the incident, two Heritage players, Jordana Codio and Khadee Hession, decided to wear the BLM shirts in an apparent response to the incident during warmups of a game on Dec. 4. The school’s next game vs. American Heritage-Plantation, however, was cancelled, with no reason provided at the time, according to the Palm Beach Post. The school now says it was due to COVID-19 concerns.

But Kara Codio, Jordana’s mother, isn’t buying it.

“There was very, very conflicting information,” Kara Codio, told the Post. “To me, this was done under cover. It was like, ‘we’re going to use COVID as an excuse.’ ”

And the school’s basketball coach, Brett Studley, posted this on twitter:

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The school, however, stands by its claim that the game’s cancellation was due to COVID concerns and not the students’ t-shirts.

“Coronavirus was the only reason that the game was cancelled,” read a statement given to Deadspin by the school’s attorney, Eric Schwartzreich. “There is nothing pre-textual about COVID-19. The school has taken great measures to ensure that all in our school’s community and community remain safe and healthy during this pandemic. American Heritage strives to provide a safe and secure environment for it’s students, staff and faculty.”

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Kara Codio told the Palm Beach Post that more students had planned to wear Black Lives Matters t-shirts at the Heritage-Plantation game, including Heritage-Plantation players.

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“What is being circulated on social media is based on misinformation,” read Schwartzreich’s statement. “This all started in our Palm Beach school because a student from a public school (not American Heritage School) infiltrated a virtual class and used a racial slur. American Heritage Deans and our IT department investigated the incident. Action was taken. We promptly informed the principal of the public school whose student committed the act. The facts of this case were communicated to students and families of our Palm Beach campus last week.

“The Delray girls’ basketball team was neither suspended nor punished and the game was not cancelled due to the fact that some of the players were wearing BLM shirts during warm up, but rather because of concerns about COVID-19.”

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And the school’s president Douglas Laurie went even further, blasting Kara Codio’s allegations to the Palm Beach Post.

“What Mrs. Codio has been doing has been libel, slander and flat-out lies. The game between the Plantation school and (Delray) school would have been dangerous. If there was a spread of COVID, it could have conceivably gotten into both schools.”

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Indiana Fever guard Erica Wheeler spoke up for the two teens, both alums of Wheeler’s basketball camp.

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Finals MVP Breanna Stewart of the Seattle Storm also spoke out on Instagram in support of the girls.

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Stewart wrote, “It’s not a political statement. It’s real life,” speaking on #BlackLivesMatter shirts the girls wore.

To these young athletes, keep on fighting. Don’t let this deter your efforts for change. And once again, thank you to the WNBA for continuing to stand up and supporting the movement for Black lives.

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EDITOR’S NOTE: This post originally included reporting from Khristina Williams that was not properly sourced. We have reworked the story to include that attribution. We apologize for the error.