NAACP hosts town hall over alleged racial slurs made by members of Bellaire High School’s baseball team

Here's what we know

HOUSTON – The Houston NAACP hosted a town hall forum Tuesday to discuss claims of racism and racist remarks allegedly made last month by members of Bellaire High School’s baseball team, directed at Westbury High School’s baseball team.

“If a teacher or coach tolerates and accommodates racism they are perpetuating a problem,” said Bishop James Dixon, president of the NAACP Houston branch.

At the center of the calls for termination are Nick Ozuna, Bellaire High School’s head baseball coach, as well as his assistant coach Robert Manuel. Both are accused of not correcting their players’ alleged racist taunts.

Since the allegations were made earlier this month, HISD confirmed both coaches have been reassigned pending the outcome of an internal investigation.

Amelia Robinson, whose son is a member of Westbury’s baseball team, was among those to address the audience during the town hall meeting.

“As my son is walking off, I see that he is very upset,” Robinson recalled, adding she didn’t hear what’s been alleged but said her son did. “He stated to me as he was batting and working in the outfield that they were making monkey calls to him and his players.”

Those who demand HISD terminate both coaches said the re-assignment wasn’t good enough. They also accused Ozuna of previous racist remarks.

Larry McKenzie, an HISD teacher and baseball coach, said the students accused of making racist comments should be disciplined as well.

“That was an HISD-sponsored activity. Racism and bullying is a level three and level four offense in the student code of conduct,” McKenzie said.

How HISD should react was the focus of the discussion, during which two Bellaire teachers spoke. They also said they were alums of the high school and urged attendees to let HISD’s investigation play out — instead of judging all of Bellaire High School.

“There’s a reason why we teach at Bellaire High School. On some level everyone at Bellaire High School has been demonized,” said Tanya Andrews, a teacher at Bellaire High School.

HISD Superintendent Millard House II also attended the meeting but didn’t speak to the audience. Before the meeting commenced, House told reporters he wouldn’t make public comments, citing the ongoing investigation.

“I’m here to listen,” House said.

Christopher Tritico, the attorney representing Ozuna, denied allegations of racism, calling calls for his termination a “smear campaign.”

“Coach Nick Ozuna is the victim of a smear campaign which has left him unable to defend himself by his employer’s directive not to speak about the investigation while those who yell ‘F bombs’ at high school baseball games accuse him of being a racist,” Tritico wrote in a statement to KPRC 2.

Tritico continued, stating Ozuna’s 18-year-record at the high school speaks to his leadership.

“Coach Ozuna participated fully with the district’s investigation, answered every question, and turned in almost 100 letters of support from current and former players and parents from all walks of life, including many who were in attendance at the Westbury game and a witness to all alleged events,” Tritico wrote.


About the Author:

Emmy and Edward R. Murrow award-winning journalist. NOLA born and bred, though #HoustonStrong, with stops in Minnesota, New York, Massachusetts, and Connecticut in along the way.