Calvert Hall responds to St. Frances' allegations of racism in decision to not play Panthers in football

After Mount Saint Joseph and Calvert Hall announced this week that they would no longer play St. Frances in football, the varied public reaction included allegations Thursday from St. Frances principal Dr. Curtis Turner that racism factored into those decisions.

On Friday evening, Brother John Kane, president of Calvert Hall, challenged those allegations and elaborated on his school’s initial statement Thursday that safety concerns initiated the decision not to play St. Frances this fall.

“Ugly characterizations of Calvert Hall have been made in response to our decision to cease playing football against St. Frances Academy,” Kane said at the beginning of the statement. “Wrong and unfounded suggestions that this decision is racially motivated have appeared in the media and on social platforms. We will not stand silently in response.”

The Panthers are the two-time defending Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference champions and have developed into a national powerhouse, ranked No. 4 last season in USA Today’s Super 25.

At St. Frances, which is located in East Baltimore and has a mostly African-American student body, Turner said the decision by MIAA rivals to not play the Panthers is racially motivated.

“Absolutely, and I’m not going to shy away from it,” Turner told The Baltimore Sun’s Mike Preston. “No one wants to talk about it directly. We’re the oldest Catholic school in the Archdiocese of Baltimore and the only difference between us and the other Catholic schools is the social economic demographic.”

Citing safety concerns regarding football nationwide over “head, spine and other serious injuries” that happen at all levels of the sport, Kane said in his statement Friday that his school takes “reasonable precautions to minimize the risk of such injuries for all players,” and this is one of those precautions.

“This decision with respect to our football program is solely made in the interests of the safety of our students. To suggest there is any other motivation is to ignore the fundamental principles of our common Catholic faith and the values for which Calvert Hall has stood for and practiced for over 173 years,” Kane said. “Calvert Hall is a widely diverse community. We pride ourselves on providing opportunities for students of all backgrounds, races and ethnicities. We succeed in that goal. This has been our pledge from the very founding of our school to today. We will not [waver] in that commitment.

“No one should dare call caring for our students anything but the most important and responsible action we could take. Instead, call it the right thing to do.”

Mount Saint Joseph officials also cited safety concerns, as well as the large number of Panthers transfers, in their decision to stop playing St. Frances, whose roster under former Gilman coach Biff Poggi includes top players from across the Mid-Atlantic area. Mount Saint Joseph contended the Panthers, who were ranked No. 1 by The Baltimore Sun and went 13-0 last fall, have become bigger, faster, stronger and deeper than their A Conference opponents can compete with.

There were seven football teams in the MIAA A Conference last season. Loyola Blakefield, which had struggled the past few years against most opponents, withdrew from the conference in January. Officials at the other three schools — Archbishop Spalding, Gilman and McDonogh — said they have made no decision about whether they will play the Panthers next year.

Officials from the MIAA, including all of the schools’ athletic directors, will meet at their annual retreat on the Eastern Shore early next week when St. Frances football is likely to be a major topic of discussion. The other three programs likely will decide after that.

FULL STATEMENT FROM BROTHER JOHN KANE, CALVERT HALL PRESIDENT

Ugly characterizations of Calvert Hall have been made in response to our decision to cease playing football against St. Frances Academy. Wrong and unfounded suggestions that this decision is racially motivated have appeared in the media and on social platforms. We will not stand silently in response.

Let us be clear. Football is a sport under intense national scrutiny due to safety concerns. Head, spine, and other serious injuries occur at every level of the sport. At Calvert Hall, we take reasonable precautions to minimize the risk of such injuries for all players. No one disagrees that special care must be taken to protect young football players from injury.

Our mission is to foster the healthy spiritual, physical, emotional, and academic development of our young men. We are entrusted by their families with providing our students outstanding academic and extracurricular programs in a safe environment. This decision with respect to our football program is solely made in the interests of the safety of our students. To suggest there is any other motivation is to ignore the fundamental principles of our common Catholic faith and the values for which Calvert Hall has stood for and practiced for over 173 years.

Calvert Hall is a widely diverse community. We pride ourselves on providing opportunities for students of all backgrounds, races and ethnicities. We succeed in that goal. This has been our pledge from the very founding of our school to today. We will not waiver in that commitment.

No one should dare call caring for our students anything but the most important and responsible action we could take.

Instead, call it the right thing to do.

katherine.dunn@baltsun.com

twitter.com/kdunnsun

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