September 30, 2014

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) A school principal said Tuesday that members of his high school's football team were subjected to racist taunts from among a group of adults in an eastern Connecticut town where his team had just played an away game and lost.

New London High School principal William ''Tommy'' Thompson III said a fight broke out after fans in Plainfield used the N-word in taunts against the players, called them ''monkeys'' and told them to ''get back in their cages'' when the players were heading to their buses Friday. He said he did not hear the taunts directly but several players told him about them afterward.

Quarterback Danny Maranda told The Day of New London that he was repeatedly called an ''N-word lover.''

Two former Plainfield high school students were charged with breach of peace in connection with the fight.

Plainfield Police Chief Michael Surprenant said no one interviewed by police Friday mentioned the slurs, but he said the investigation is continuing and more arrests are possible.

Minorities in New London, a city of about 27,000 residents, make up about 40 percent of the population; Plainfield, a town of 15,000 residents, is about 94 percent white, according to the latest census data.

Plainfield principal James Worth said he has been raising the issue of fan behavior at Plainfield High School, which he said experienced similar issues years ago.

''We have addressed issues with students and with fans over the past six years to improve the culture and the climate of the events,'' he said. ''And the fans have been very responsive and respectful.''

After Friday night's fight, Plainfield's quarterback offered an apology on Twitter to the New London quarterback for the fans' behavior. Thompson said a Monday game between freshmen and sophomores has been rescheduled and a postgame dinner will be held with student athletes from both schools.

Duane Pierson Jr., who coached youth football in Groton for 17 years, said the issue has not been limited to Plainfield High School games. He said he had to remind his players every time they visited Plainfield to ignore the racial taunts.

''It was only when we played there,'' said Pierson, who now coaches the Rhode Island Riptide of the semipro New England Football League. ''I had a kid come over to me crying. It was something we had to address with parents and players every time we went up there.''

Plainfield First Selectman Paul Sweet, who attended the game Friday and said he did not witness any racial taunting, said his town is embarrassed by the complaints after Friday's game, but he said they do not reflect his community's attitudes.

''This should not be something that paints the town as anti-diversity or anything like that,'' Sweet said. ''That is absolute crap. That's just not fair, and it's not a way of life around here.''

The fight broke out after the New London players emerged from the locker room following their 21-17 loss to Plainfield High School. Besides charges against the two, the Plainfield principal said they also have been banned from attending events on school grounds.

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