Capital Student Caught Yelling Racist Slur at Basketball Game With River Ridge

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A Capital High School (Olympia) student was captured on video using profane language and yelling a racial slur toward a River Ridge (Lacey) player during a boys basketball game between the schools on Jan. 14.

The incident was first reported by mynorthwest.com. Capital students can be heard in the video making ape noises and referring to a River Ridge basketball player as a "gorilla."

The slur was made toward the player wearing jersey No. 3, which the school's athletic website lists as Ahmari Steplight. Steplight's father, Qayi, took to Facebook to express his anger following the incident.

"For those of you who don't know. My son was targeted at the River Ridge High School (Lacey, Washington) vs Capital High School basketball game," the post states. "The student body at Capital High School were yelling racial epithets during the game directed toward My son. One of the students recorded a video and shared it on social media and even tagged my son in the video."

Olympia School District superintendent Patrick Murphy released a statement late Wednesday night in light of the incident.

"As the superintendent, it is incumbent upon me to work with our school leaders and staff to ensure that when student actions cause harm, there is accountability, learning and an opportunity to restore and make amends with those who have been hurt," reads part of the statement. "This incident was promptly investigated, discipline was issued and restorative work is ongoing."

The full statement, which can be found on the Olympia School District's website, never says specifically what type of discipline has been issued against the student. In an email to The News Tribune, a district spokesperson said the district is unable to share specific information about discipline due to privacy.

Qayi Steplight's dad was in the military, and a move brought the family to Lacey in 1994.

"There wasn't a lot of Black students then," Steplight said. "When my parents were looking for a school, everyone said to go to River Ridge. That's where (all the Black students) went."

Steplight said as a Black teenager, he's always felt racism when he went into Olympia.

"There's a line drawn in the sand: Thurston County and then Olympia. If you go into Olympia, you don't know what you're going to get. You know you're not welcome. Every time we're at football games, basketball, baseball, whatever, we get consistent stories from families about how we're treated.

"They used to paint their faces black at Capital and Olympia games. Everyone seemed like it was OK. The parents there, the staff at the top of the bleachers, nobody ever says anything. ... Everyone is too scared to say or do anything. I've been around enough families and kids, people feel like nothing is going to ever happen."

When he was in high school, Steplight's parents bought him a BMW as a reward for having a 4.0 grade point average. He said he was pulled over 15 times in a week by Olympia police and search his car.

"That was my first run-in with the police and just how things are in this area," Steplight said.

When he asked his son about the incident at the basketball game, Ahmari more or less shrugged it off.

"He said, 'That's just what they call us,'" Steplight said.

Capital has had issues with student behavior at basketball games in the past. Last spring, the 'Capital Mens Basketball' Twitter account tweeted that "due to continued unacceptable behavior by our students, both during and after our basketball games, no students will be allowed at our home basketball games for the remainder of the season."

A spokesperson from the school district declined to comment on last spring's situation.

Steplight said he's met with Capital's administration, which offered a sincere apology to him in-person. But he doesn't think the district is doing enough.

"When I walk into Capital's gym, or Olympia, or Black Hills, I hardly ever see any people of color that work in those schools," Steplight said. "I think it starts there. Having more educators in those schools of different races. I feel like these kids in that district need to get a dose of being taught by somebody of color."

Steplight also he thinks students of all races should have safe spaces where they're able to talk about issues of race and talk about their experiences.