WPIAL vindicates Brentwood? Not so fast

February 24, 2012 12:00 am

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Within minutes, the phone calls started. When the result of the WPIAL's hearing about the Feb. 3 Brentwood-Monessen basketball game began to spread, a few Brentwood residents called to crow.

"If you have any journalistic integrity left, you better apologize," one caller said between insults. "You made it seem like our whole community was racist, and we didn't do anything."

Another caller grunted between profanities that the WPIAL's failure to take action against Brentwood or give credence to Monessen's claim that racial taunts had been thrown its way "proved" Brentwood was the victim of a media lynching.

All together, there were five nasty calls and fewer than 10 emails -- a surprisingly light response compared to the reaction to my previous column. I attribute this to the fact that most folks understand that with every controversy, there's an initial judgment and an appeal.

The WPIAL's 17-member board met on Tuesday, heard the arguments and made a ruling. Monessen has a month to appeal to the PIAA and put together its evidence that its players were racially harassed. This could go on for a while. Any claim of "vindication" on Brentwood's part is premature until the process plays itself out, but the burden is now on Monessen.

"Our decision was based strictly on the testimony that was heard at the hearing," said WPIAL executive director Tim O'Malley. That makes sense. A panel can only deal with the testimony at hand. It sounds as if Brentwood did a better job of presenting its case than Monessen did. Did anyone step forward to corroborate the Monessen players' complaints? It doesn't sound like it. Lack of testimony doesn't mean something didn't happen.

Still, an appeal can't succeed without such testimony. Something happened that made Monessen leave in a bad mood despite winning the game handily.

In the meantime, the WPIAL instructed school officials to work together to promote sportsmanship and "improve the relationship between the two schools." I hope this happens. It would be a much-needed teachable moment for both sides.

I understand why some Brentwood residents are overjoyed with the WPIAL's decision. They're tired of being considered a hotbed of small-town racism because of history and demographics. Even a sliver of vindication is better than the usual opprobrium.

First Published 2012-02-23 23:17:19

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