St. Joseph football coach, players suspended for role in racially charged video sent to Haddonfield player
On the video, St. Joseph players are heard referring to Haddonfield players in profane and racially intimidating terms.
St. Joseph High School football coach Paul Sacco, South Jersey's all-time leader in career victories, was suspended by the Hammonton, N.J., school's president for two games Wednesday for failing to supervise players who made and shared a video with profane and racially charged language.
In addition, the Rev. Allain B. Caparas announced that the players involved would face consequences that will include "suspensions from school, suspensions from games, community service, and disciplinary probation for the remainder of the school year."
Sacco, whose teams have won 322 games in his 36 seasons, was suspended because the video was shot at a gathering at his home on Sept, 28, the night before his team's game against Haddonfield Memorial High School.
Sacco confirmed Wednesday that he was not home when the video was shot but said his wife was monitoring the players, who regularly gather for pizza at the coach's residence on the night before Saturday afternoon home games.
"Coach Paul Sacco should have been supervising the students at the time of the incident — though he was not present at the time of the video," Caparas wrote. He said that in the future, Sacco will not be "permitted to host team gatherings in private residences."
In the video, which appears to have been shot in the basement rec room, a St. Joseph player is heard to utter a curse word against Haddonfield and refer to Haddonfield players as "rich [expletive]."
Another St. Joseph player is heard mentioning "that rich white boy" about a Haddonfield player.
On the video, which apparently was sent to an African American Haddonfield player via Snapchat, another St. Joseph player, who also is African American, appears to use the n-word.
"The behavior is absolutely unacceptable and directly opposed to Catholic teaching," Caparas wrote.
Larry White, executive director of the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association, said the video as well as a report from his office would be forwarded to the New Jersey Attorney General's Office's Civil Rights Division because of the racially intimidating language.
"It's disappointing," White said. "Number one, schools aren't getting the message out or aren't getting through. You just can't do this stuff. You can't send this stuff out there for the whole world to see.
"And number two, there's just no place for this in high school sports. In any sports, really."
Haddonfield Memorial principal Chuck Klaus said he had viewed the video but declined comment other than to say in an email, "At this time we are reaching out to St. Joseph."
Caparas said in his statement that he had reached out to Haddonfield officials.
"I have called the Haddonfield principal to apologize for the actions of my students," Caparas wrote. "I also extend my apologies to the student athletes of the Haddonfield high school football team."
The video surfaced a little before noon Wednesday, when a Haddonfield parent sent it to Haddonfield and St. Joseph officials as well as news media.
In an accompanying note, the parent compared the video to an incident last spring in which the Haddonfield boys' lacrosse team had its season canceled when one of the lacrosse players was accused of using the n-word toward an African American track athlete from Sterling High School during a track meet at Haddonfield.
"Troubling Video — Where is the Fairness?" read the subject line of the email sent by the Haddonfield parent.
St. Joseph is one of South Jersey's top programs. The Wildcats have won eight state titles in the last nine seasons and are 5-1 and ranked fourth in the Inquirer's South Jersey rankings.
St. Joseph was No. 1 but lost its Sept. 29 game to Haddonfield by 22-15. The Bulldawgs are 6-0 and the new No. 1 team in the rankings. At the time of the game, both teams were 4-0.
Haddonfield quarterback Jay Foley, who seems to be mentioned in the video by a St. Joseph player, threw three touchdown passes to lead the Bulldawgs to victory.
"I'm coming for that little 5-7 quarterback," a St. Joseph player says on the video, in an apparent reference to Foley.
Sacco seemed devastated early Wednesday afternoon before the disciplinary action was announced.
"I'm sick to my stomach," Sacco said in his office. He declined further comment.
St. Joseph is scheduled to play No. 15 West Deptford at noon Saturday in Hammonton.