Controversy rises over costumes, bananas left in locker room at high school football game

MANSFIELD, Ohio -- Friday night's football game between Mansfield at Ashland was overshadowed by controversy.

It was costume night at Ashland High School.

Some fans say some Ashland students were in black face and others dressed as bananas.

A player on the predominantly African-American Mansfield football team was offended and took to social media saying "Racisim and hazing are not cool."

Members of Ashland's Cross Country team also left bananas in Mansfield's locker room.

Jennifer Williams and Tionna Perdue both have sons on the Mansfield football team. Williams said she was offended.

"It upset me because we have to go home and explain to our kids why they were treated unfairly," Williams said.

Perdue said she doesn't think the Ashland students did anything on purpose, but should have given more thought to what they were doing and how things could have been perceived.

"I'm just saying think of the impact. You have the only black school in the conference coming to your school to a box of bananas in the locker room," Perdue said, "I want the parents and the citizens of Ashland to see where we are coming from so they will stop making this mistake."

Ashland's Athletic Director Jason Goings released the following statement on social media, apologizing for the "misunderstanding."

"In response to the events of last night, and any misunderstanding that occurred, concerning the Ashland vs. Mansfield Senior football game we want to offer our sincere apologies once again to the community of Mansfield, the Administration, Coaches, Parents and most of all the players. What we thought was a gesture of kindness was understandably not perceived as so. For quite some time now (upwards of 20 years) our Cross Country team has held Banana Fridays in preparation for their races the next day. Any remaining fruit not consumed by the cross country team was left in the visiting locker room which the Cross Country team uses during the week. Here is a quote from my XC Coach explaining “We leave the box of whatever is left in the locker room each week in hopes that the football team will eat them if they like, so as to hopefully not waste them. I don’t even know who the football team plays week to week” Once alerted to concerns about this incident the administration immediately took action and explained that this was a tradition and there was no malice intended. The administration apologized to as many coaches as we could before kick-off of the game. There was also an allegation that Ashland students were wearing blackface. This is untrue. Our student theme for the game was costume night and there were students dressed in a variety of costumes including various food items. We are rivals on the field of play and that is all. When Ashland plays Mansfield Senior it is always a good game and we win some and they win some. Their players came ready to play last night and that is just a testament to the outstanding coaches and players they have in their program. Their game winning 78 yard drive to win the game last night is just one example of the resiliency of these players. I have deep ties to the Mansfield area being a graduate of Mansfield Senior and served the community there for 16 years as a teacher, coach, and administrator. I am deeply and emotionally tied to the students and faculty of the Mansfield school system and that this gesture by our cross country team has been taken out of context hurts me on a personal level.  I have family on the current Senior High football team and want nothing but the best for all of them. There was no intent to send any message other than good sportsmanship.  If the act was not perceived as such we again apologize."

Goings said there was "no malice" and he said claims of students in black face are simply "not true," however some parents are still upset.

"I don't accept the apology. It is what it is at this point. There's no excuse for it," Williams said.

As far as the football game, Mansfield defeated Ashland.