Micah Arnett had scored two touchdowns as a running back and collected several tackles from his linebacker slot to help his undefeated Meigs Middle School team to a healthy fourth quarter lead in a game that would end in a 34-8 win over rival Baker.
The racist taunts began, he said, after he’d been brought down following a run and the Baker middle schooler who’d tackled him continued after the whistle had sounded to try to pry the ball from his grasp. Arnett told the kid to back off, that the play was over.
“What you gonna do about it little (expletive) boy,” was how Arnett’s mother, Cindy, related the Baker player’s response.
“I was surprised,” 13-year-old Micah said. Then, upon reflection, he added “Well, surprised but not really.”
Micah said he endured the same sort of slurs as a sixth-grader, also in a game against Baker.
In a letter of complaint turned into the Okaloosa County School District, Cindy Arnett stated that the player who initiated the racist taunting at the Sept. 19 game continued to spew hatred in Micah’s direction, and in doing so prompted other Baker players to join in with racial insults.
“My son is biracial, and I just want to speak up on his behalf that there is no tolerance for racism anywhere. It was very painful to see the hurt and disgust on my son’s face walking off the football field,” the letter of complaint said.
Micah said at one point he turned to the referee and told him “They need to watch their mouths. He (the referee) said, ‘OK, I’ll pay attention to that.’ ”
But no punitive action was taken during the game against the player or players by either the referee or the Baker’s coaching staff.
The School District, though, responded quickly to Arnett’s complaint. While she said the Baker team’s coach has not returned phone calls, she has heard from Baker School Principal Mike Martello, who apologized for what she and her son had endured.
She said she’d also heard twice after filing her complaint from Okaloosa County School Superintendent Marcus Chambers.
“They took this matter to heart and acted with a sense of urgency. Mr. Chambers said he is taking it very serious and has put this at the top of his priority list,” Arnett said. “You really sense his genuineness. I got the sense he really does care.”
School District spokesman Steve Horton confirmed the district is “looking into the incident” at Baker but offered no additional information.
“We take these matters very seriously. There is no place for this type of alleged behavior on our ball fields or in our classrooms,” Horton answered in response to questions about the Arnetts' complaint.
Cindy Arnett said she and Micah discussed their response to the incident at Baker and decided to speak publicly in hopes of raising awareness and prompting change.
“How he described it (the taunting), I just couldn’t believe it. He said, ‘Those are some racist people over there,’ ” Cindy Arnett said. “For young kids, that in this day and age this kind of thing still exists, it just kind of blows my mind.”