By Phil Anastasia
Inquirer Staff Writer
Pat Shober is the senior class president at Holy Spirit. He was in the stands on the night of Feb. 18, when the Spartans hosted Atlantic City in boys' basketball.
He said he was the kid wearing the green tutu.
He has written a letter explaining what the Holy Spirit students did that night and expressing his outrage at what he perceives to be a misrepresentation of the situation.
Here is his letter. It's long but worth the effort if you want a first-person perspective on the controversy over the banana suit and monkey costume:
To Whom It May Concern,
Regarding the article published on the front page of The Press of Atlantic City this past Saturday, February the 28th, I would like to say, as a current senior at Holy Spirit High School, I am both appalled and offended at the disrespect shown to my school.
Holy Spirit is an ethnically, racially, and spiritually diverse institution and as a student and athlete I am proud to have been able to be a part of its incredible tradition these past four years as a member of its student body; and even prouder to share in the tradition for the rest of my life as an alumnus.
I am involved in many activities at Spirit and am the President of my Senior Class so clearly I care about my school and the view others have concerning its reputation.
That being said, I was a member of the student section the night of the Holy Spirit vs. Atlantic City basketball game which has resulted in this delayed controversy.
There is a group of seniors who have stepped up to lead the cheering sections this year for sporting events as Spirit has had every single year for the past fifty years Holy Spirit has had its Absecon location.
Prior to the game we planned a whiteout for the rivalry game against AC, as is common in rivalries, and proceeded to organize our own outfits with the sole intent of electrifying our players and our fans.
The idea was brought up to imitate the Arizona State University fan section's "Curtain of Distraction" which is basically a curtain used by the students behind the basket when the opposing team is shooting foul shots.
While an opponent is preparing to shoot the students open the curtain revealing some type of entertaining and often amusing skit with the purpose of distracting the shooter into missing.
We congregated an hour and a half before the game, as we had done several times before for football and basketball games, and all brought Halloween costumes and amusing outfits that we planned to use for the curtain demonstration.
Because we knew the bleachers would fill quickly we tried on outfits then took them off and brought them with us so it would be a surprise what we would be wearing.
The outfits chosen were a bumblebee costume, a ballerina tutu (which I myself wore), monkey pajamas, a costume for the character of Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz, a jack-o-lantern costume, and a banana suit.
When the first foul shots for AC occurred and we used the curtain for the first time, a student appeared as the character of Dorothy for the shots.
The Atlantic City coach was understandably upset with what we were doing when his player missed one of the foul shots, but after a brief meeting of the referees, they did not stop us because apparently we were not doing anything wrong.
We stayed off the court itself and simply created a distraction for the shooter. Because it was so warm in the gym that night, the student with the monkey pajamas unzipped them to his waist until halftime then took them off completely.
Immediately following the skit the student in the banana suit took his costume off. These costumes were worn fully on the students for less than two minutes the entire game.
There was no question of sportsmanship that night because all we did was show school spirit and root for our team who ended up losing in the end.
The fan section was louder than it had been all season long and the fans, of both sides I may add, were thoroughly amused and actually complimented many of us on our actions numerous times both at the game itself and throughout the time since then.
Racism was not brought up once by a student, player, or spectator that night. We intended no racist connotations during our performances that night.
Not one person ever spoke up before about our actions and attires in previous games.
In our basketball game against St. Augustine Prep earlier in the year the same outfits were worn yet no attention was brought to the matter.
It was not until over a week later that the concept of racism was made public. If everyone truly felt we were being prejudice that night, why was it not an issue at the time?
This entire incident is being blown completely out of proportion. Clearly someone is looking for the incident to be labeled as racial considering the only part of the entire night being made public is the two foul shots when we used those costumes.
Two years ago an African American student and friend of mine who graduated from Spirit last year wore a banana costume and racism was not even thought about.
He spoke out about this incident in an article published in the Philadelphia Inquirer explaining that we have always dressed up and cheered for our teams without any problems and this is no different than any other time.
The only reason the situation escalated so quickly is because of the inaccuracies of the articles that appeared Friday night and Saturday morning that cannot be overlooked.
In every article I have read, and I have read plenty in the past few days, it has been portrayed that basically the entire game involved a monkey and a banana and that was the whole point of us using the curtain. From what I have explained about the game, it seems this is not the most exact information.
Also, in Ms. Weaver's article I would like to point out that she said we were on the sideline when we did this. Well if she or any other person looking at this as a problem had actually been at the game or any game prior, what would have been seen was a whole row of students standing below the bleachers where we performed.
Instead, that night, we only had a few students that low to hold the curtain and to distract the players. In a quote from the article, Atlantic City athletic director, Anthony Nistico, is quoted to have said, "If you look at the film from the game, Holy Spirit's starting five are African American."
I am not sure what film Mr. Nistico was looking at, but he must have been watching the wrong game because that night we had one Caucasian player and four African American players start for us and since that game have had two other Caucasian players start.
Mr. Nistico also decided to point out that his school's team is predominantly black while ironically we have more than ten African American players on our own team. It seems very contradictory to point out that we have five black starters, which is not true, and then continue to say Atlantic City's team is predominantly black.
Maybe he was suggesting that we were trying to be racist towards our own team, but whatever he meant it is more of an open interpretation for anyone to decipher which has been the case for a lot of details throughout this ordeal since the information given out by those not in attendance has been so broad.
In a second article written by Ms. Weaver and published the same day as the other, she quotes an Atlantic City fan who was offended by the costumes when she saw them during warm ups.
This also confused me in view of the fact that the costumes were not put on until after the game had actually begun.
Both articles written by Ms. Weaver were clearly biased and made the "incident" appear to be more so like a deliberate attempt to discriminate against African Americans than a high school boys' basketball game involving a rowdy fan section that helped support their team.
My frustration about this entire situation is that it has been two weeks since the event and no questioned us about our intentions.
Actually, all the reporters at the game that night praised us for our enthusiasm through social media and in Glory Days Magazine. All the information gathered from that night was based on opinions of some people who decided to accuse us of something we did not intend.
We were 90's babies who grew up being taught that racism is wrong and you get along with people regardless of race, ethnicity, or religion.
We had students of various backgrounds in the student section that game. We know there are serious racial issues in our country and our world -- but that is not who we are.
We were kids supporting our team and having fun. Ever since the article has been written the topic of racism has found its way into almost every conversation with my peers. I also would like to make it known that not one racist slur was used by any of our students as some rumors seem to say.
I am not racist and neither are my fellow Spartans. We love our school, we love our teams, and we love each other.
The fact that any reporter or official has the audacity to tell me I am racist is offensive in itself and disrespectful.
I love Holy Spirit for everything that it is and would never do something to humiliate its name.
My family would basically disown me if they even thought I did something to embarrass the school. My family has been involved with Holy Spirit for decades.
My grandfather, Stan Marczyk, was athletic director, a teacher, a coach and much more for many years.
My grandmother and her siblings attended Spirit while it was still located in Atlantic City. My mother along with her seven siblings all attended Holy Spirit.
I am currently enrolled at Holy Spirit with four of my cousins, three of whom play basketball, and my sister. My other sister is in eighth grade and cannot wait to join the tradition next fall. I would never do anything to disrespect my school.
Our longstanding rivalry with Atlantic City has always been one of respect and even friendship.
The majority of Spirit students have close friends who go to AC and these articles are hurting those friendships.
Over the course of the past several days the friendly rivalry has become something much different. There is hatred among the students of the two schools now that did not exist before Friday as a result of those who inappropriately and irresponsibly reported only part of the story.
Students from each school were completely fine with the costumes, but there are those who have corrupted us into thinking there is now a reason to look at the opposing school with disdain.
Racism exists but sometimes a monkey is just an animal and a banana is just a fruit.