Arlington Heights, IL – Soccer playoff game between St. Viator and Deerfield went into a delay due to a spectator who allegedly shouted antisemitic remarks to a Deerfield player.
According to witnesses, a man from the St. Viator section allegedly yelled, “Where is your Jewish star… you should put a Jewish star on your shirt.”
“As a school community, we stand united against all acts of hatred on our campus, in our local communities, and across our nation and our globe,” Deerfield High School Principal Kathryn Anderson said in an email to the school community. “We will stand up and fight against prejudice.”
St. Viator president Dan Lydon said in a statement on Saturday, May 27 that play was stopped for approximately 10 minutes at the 22nd minute mark of the second half. “Several Deerfield players confirmed hearing a male voice shout anti-semitic slurs,” Lydon said. “One young woman informed the referee, at which time he immediately stopped play.
“The remarks reported by the girls are deplorable and unacceptable.”
The IHSA Hate Speech and Harassment Policy & Procedure states that when a hate speech comment is made, “the official will stop play and meet with the head coaches of both teams and host school administration, (if present) and review the comment,” the policy says.
Since the incident, no one has publicly named the individual who made the comments. Some have expressed concern regarding St. Viator’s delay to make a statement on antisemitism/hate speech, compared to Deerfield’s response that was more immediate.
“A team of administrators began an investigation immediately,” Lydon said. “Perhaps we focused too long trying to identify the perpetrator, and today we need to speak out against such abhorrent behavior.”
One spectator in attendance, a Deerfield player’s father and local Rabbi Richard Prass, commended the actions taken by officials, but remained surprised. “I am sad, hurt, angry, and disappointed,” he said.
Prass expressed his concerns over St. Viator’s response and the school being able to “condemn these words and acts of anti-semitism publicly,” he said, which at the time, Prass believes wasn’t being done.
“We learned that one of the players from our high school team heard the hateful speech,” Prass said. “She could have chosen competition and sport over standing up to hate. This man who shouted the anti-semitic slur, which has echoes of Nazi Germany, should be condemned. This brave young soccer player should be commended and applauded for her bravery.”
St. Viator won the game, 1-0, then went on to play again in the Deerfield sectional championship game Saturday, May 27. Even though Deerfield wasn’t playing, Prass decided to attend St. Viator’s next game. “It was really hard to host them knowing they took very little action,” Prass said. “St. Viator should’ve said we denounce any words of anti-semitism or hate speech, and they should’ve done it quickly… Viator’s inaction and action is what prompted me to go to the game.”
Deerfield High School reportedly posted a sign in its stadium stating, “we do not tolerate anti-semitism, racism or any other hateful comments based on race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation. Offenders will be asked to leave.”
Lydon mentioned in his statement Saturday the St. Viator community was “disturbed and greatly saddened that anti-semitic remarks were made, and even worse, directed at young people,” he said. “At this time in our nation, we must all speak loudly and clearly against anti-semitism. We regret that earlier we only sent a message like this to our soccer families and to the Deerfield athletic director. Today we speak out to the wider community.”
Lydon said that if anyone knows about the person who made the anti-semitic comments to contact him or the athletics department. “If we discover that a member of our community is responsible, we will hold the person(s) accountable,” Lydon concluded.
“A few rotten apples like the fan who shouted what he shouted should not shroud our view of the whole,” Prass said. “If it does, then we are as guilty as that fan.”