RENO, Nev. (AP) — A Native American tribal chairman in northern Nevada is asking for the resignation of a high school basketball coach who sent a text message to one of his players that said, “Get ready to scalp or be scalped,” a newspaper reported.
Virginia City girls basketball coach Ken Fujii has apologized for the message he sent to the player on Jan. 13 before his team played Pyramid Lake High.
Vinton Hawley, chairman of the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe, called the text “reprehensible.”
Fujii, who has been a coach for 50 years, said he used a poor choice of words while trying to create motivation against a team that had beaten them soundly in recent years. He said he never intended to be mean-spirited.
The Reno Gazette-Journal first reported on its website Thursday that the tribal chairman has sent a letter to the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association asking for an investigation and immediate termination of the coach.
NIAA Assistant Director Donnie Nelson said Friday the association is awaiting the results of an investigation by Storey County School Superintendent Todd Hess, Virginia City High School Principal Rick Schrank and school athletic director Patrick Beckwith.
“As of Friday morning, it is still an internal school district and school matter,” he said in an email to The Associated Press.
Tribe and school officials told the Gazette-Journal they learned of the text after Fujii’s player published a screenshot of it on Twitter.
“As a Tribal School we are constantly subjected to this type of disparaging remarks from parents,” Hawley wrote in a letter Tuesday to the athletic association. “But to have a coach who has signed agreements to uphold his conduct to a higher standard spew such hate is disheartening and reprehensible.”
Fujii said being of Japanese descent has made him aware of racial prejudice.
“I would not and do not mistreat people especially minorities,” he wrote in his letter. “I was raised with many Indian children and many of them continue to be among my best friends today.”
The Storey County School District said the district and high school have taken the situation seriously and pledged it would be appropriately resolved.