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Schools respond to social media posts of Center Grove student in blackface

The student was allegedly mocking a Black player from Westfield after the game.

INDIANAPOLIS — When Center Grove faced Westfield in the 6A state championship Saturday night at Lucas Oil Stadium, the action was all on the field. A battle to the end gave the Trojans, the defending champs, the win 27-21. 

What has people talking days later isn't the scoring drives or defensive stands, it's photos of a Center Grove player after the game.

Those photos, widely shared across social media, show the Center Grove player with his face and neck painted black, while flexing his arm with a drawing on his bicep. 

The photo was quickly labeled as the student being in blackface and allegedly mocking Popeye Williams, a player from Westfield Washington. 

Both schools have now issued a response to the incident.

Westfield Washington said it stands with Williams, his family, other families of color and anyone impacted by the blackface images.

"While we know that people make mistakes, we hope we can all use this opportunity to learn from our actions. WHS remains committed to standing up against racial discrimination, supporting our students of color, and promoting diversity and inclusion efforts in our school and community," said Alicia Denniston, principal of Westfield High School.

Center Grove issued a statement of its own to 13News saying it is "aware of an inappropriate post on social media." The district said it is investigating the incident and taking steps to "address it through the athletic department, coaching staff, and student discipline policy."

"This student’s actions do not represent the values of our athletic program, high school, or school community."

In a letter to families in Center Grove, the school said "photos circulating on social media are overshadowing the hard work put forth by both Center Grove's and Westfield's football programs in Saturday night's state championship."

The district went on to apologize for the behavior and said it does not support the sportsmanship or values the school stands for.

Center Grove Principal Jeffry Henderson said he had been in contact with Westfield's principal and that he assured her Center Grove will not tolerate racism or harassment of any kind.

Center Grove said it would not be able to release any student discipline, if any, due to privacy restrictions.

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