I've watched, as many of you have, the story unfold concerning accusations that Pulaski County football players used "racially insensitive" remarks during last Friday's win at Tates Creek.
It's troublesome. There's no doubt about it.
And if this investigation is able to determine PC players did use racial slurs, then obviously those young men should face consequences.
But as someone who has followed the rise of Pulaski County High School football since its inception, I feel some conclusions have been drawn that perhaps are unfair to the program and the school system -- and some have been drawn that are unfair to Tates Creek, too.
No. 1, there is no way this type of behavior was "taught" by the PC coaching staff. I have known head coach John Hines since we had classes together at SCC and I can tell you this man would never knowingly allow any racist comments to be uttered by his players.
I'm convinced that John Hines wants his players to be decent human beings as they reach adulthood. He teaches his players as much about being good citizens as he does about being good football players. That's why he's been a successful coach for over three decades.
No. 2, let's not jump to the conclusion that this behavior is a result of "bad parenting."
Kids have all kinds of technology that enable them to jump down all kinds of rabbit holes. While it's true that any player who took part in this behavior should be punished, let's not lose sight of the fact that they're teenagers. I screwed up when I was that age. Most of you did, too. And, no, my screw-ups were not the result of bad parenting. They were the result of me being an idiot with a whole lot to learn about life.
No. 3, let's not assume the Pulaski administration doesn't care about these accusations and is not taking the investigation seriously. That's patently false. Superintendent Patrick Richardson, PCHS principal Rodney McAninch, PCHS athletic director Brian Miller and Hines are all working to get to the bottom of this mess.
No. 4, let's certainly not assume Tates Creek players are making false accusations because they lost a football game. I have spoken to some folks in Lexington regarding this issue and they are genuinely hurt by some of the remarks that were made last Friday night.
No. 5, please let's not write off racial slurs as "trash talk." They are not.
When you make a racial slur, you are spewing hurtful words based on your opponents' skin color. That transcends any sort of chippy player babble. That's pure hate. There's no place in any sport for calling one of your opponents a racial slur.
No. 6, let's not assume that every Pulaski County football player was complicit. That's not true. As a matter of fact, I was told that several PC players were urging the ones making insensitive remarks to stop. And that's a good thing -- a silver lining, if you will.
The best thing we can do as a community is to allow the Pulaski administration and the Kentucky High School Athletic Association to conduct their investigations and arrive at accurate conclusions that aren't rushed or dictated by public outcry on either side.
So what should happen if players who made these remarks are identified? My feeling is severe punishment and ridicule is not what these kids need. What they need is education and instruction on sensitive issues, such as race.
The Pulaski County football program can use this ugly incident as a teaching moment -- whether any players are ever identified as culprits or not.
It will just serve as another way to help make solid citizens out of its players.
JEFF NEAL is the Editor of the Commonwealth Journal. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @jnealCJ.