A Charleston, South Carolina high school football coach was fired on Monday after an investigation into a team ritual involving smashing watermelons to commemorate victories over opponents, WCIV-TV reported.
Charleston county school district superintendent Dr. Nancy McGinley announced that Academic Magnet High head coach Bud Walpole was removed from his position after a district probe revealed that besides smashing the watermelons, players drew faces on the watermelons and named them. McGinley held up a drawing approximating the faces put on the watermelon.
“It is our conclusion that the accountability lies with the adults,” McGinley said in a statement on Tuesday. “That the perceptions and the practices that were part of this ritual were not something that the adults should have sanctioned, and therefore we took action yesterday.”
The watermelons were also given names like “Junior” and “Bonds Wilson.” The latter name was used by a school, which primarily taught Black students, that sat on Academic Magnet’s current location.
The investigation began following a complaint from a parent at another school that Walpole’s players were making “animalistic or monkey-like chants” after their games as part of the ritual. The Daily Kos reported that several of the school’s recent opponents have fielded mostly-Black teams. Academic Magnet only has one Black player on its roster, junior defensive end Darius Nwokike.
“It was just something we could look forward to during the week,” Nwokike said. “It really started by accident. We’d go to the Subway before games, and before the second game of the season, one of the players saw a watermelon stand. He thought it would be cool to buy one and maybe we could eat it after the game if we won. Well, we won and we broke the watermelon because we didn’t want to wait to cut it. It was a tradition that lasted six games.”
Watch WCIV’s report, as aired on Tuesday, below.