A New York City girls’ high school basketball game came to an abrupt halt on Thursday after players on one team verbally attacked their Jewish opponents, using anti-Semitic slurs — and playing so rough that several players were injured on the court.
The girls’ varsity team from The Leffell School — a private Jewish school — traveled to Yonkers to play against the local public school, Roosevelt High School. But when they took to the court, players said that they encountered more hateful comments and slurs than they ever had before.
“Throughout the first half of our game against Roosevelt High School in Yonkers, there was a somewhat hostile environment, with substantially more jabs and comments thrown at the players on our team than what I have experienced in the past,” senior Robin Bosworth wrote in an op-ed for The Lion’s Roar.
“Despite this, our team chose to let their aggressiveness fuel us going into the second half of the game, as we continued to play passionately.”
Bosworth said that the situation got much worse after halftime, however, noting that by the third quarter, some of her teammates had been injured because of how roughly Roosevelt was playing.
“Members of our team started to get injured from the other team’s physical style of play. At the end of the quarter, players on the opposing team started shouting ‘Free Palestine’ and other antisemitic slurs and curses at us,” Bosworth continued.
“Attacking a team because of their school’s religious association is never acceptable, but especially due to the current war in Israel and the world’s rise in antisemitism, this felt extremely personal to me and many members of my team. I have played a sport every athletic season throughout my high school career, and I have never experienced this kind of hatred directed at one of my teams before.”
The players consulted with Coach John Tessitore and determined that the best course of action was to leave the game — which they did, but only after security guards ensured that they could exit the venue safely.
Leffell’s head of school, Michael Kay, said that Roosevelt High School Athletic Director Kyle Calabro had already offered an apology, promising “swift and appropriate” action on the matter. Roosevelt’s principal, Edward DeChent, also apologized — and was ready to work alongside The Leffell School to investigate and resolve the situation.
“Our team was playing on the road, and during the course of the game, a small number of players on the opposing team directed hurtful, antisemitic comments toward members of our team,” Kay said in a public statement, adding that he was proud of the way both his students and staff had remained calm and removed themselves from the situation without escalating the tensions.
HATE AT HOME – Response from @LeffellSchool after girls basketball players were reportedly targeted with antisemitic and extremely hateful verbal slurs from opposing team at Roosevelt High in Yonkers, leading to game cancellation.https://t.co/W4HKBCIEJs
— Tara Rosenblum (@tararosenblum) January 6, 2024
A Yonkers Public School spokesman also delivered what appeared to be a watered-down version of events, saying, “It has come to our attention that a student-athlete made a statement involving ‘free Palestine.’ This incident was promptly addressed in line with our district’s policies and values.”