Following Covington Catholic High School student Nick Sandmann’s now-viral confrontation with Native American elder and veteran Nathan Phillips last week, another image of students from the Kentucky all-boys school is making its rounds on social media.
This time, several white students at a high school basketball game are shown painted black, including their faces, as they appear to scream at a black player from the opposing team.
Snopes concluded the image does in fact depict CCH students.
[T]he official Covington Catholic High School YouTube account published a video last January boasting its basketball school spirit, and several clips, including one from 2012, showcase attendees chanting in black face, a mockery of the opposing players. The school took down the video later on Monday.
Researchers at Snopes concluded the photo of boys painted black is legitimate and originates from CCH.
At least three reasons suggested this photograph was an authentic image. First, the official YouTube page of Covington Catholic posted a (now deleted) video on 24 January 2018 titled “Colonel Crazies Compilation Video” — a reference to the nickname given to that school’s cheering section — which showed numerous students covered in black paint present at several basketball games. One clip could possibly be from the same game shown in the photograph, based on the distribution of painted players and the year (2012) the video was allegedly taken.
Second, the photograph appeared to originate with a message board for Kentucky prep schools titled BluegrassPreps.com where it was posted on 7 December 2015, well before the controversy over the January 2019 viral video. The photograph was posted as part of a discussion on whether or not “The Colonel Crazies’ treatment of inbounders” — players making an inbound passes — should change, and the thread included posts from several individuals defending both the antics and the wearing of black paint as well.
Third, the photograph appeared to depict a game between Covington Catholic and “Clark County,” based on the uniform of the opposing player, a game that actually took place. The event was Covington Catholic’s season opening game at George Rogers Clark High School, which was held on 27 November 2012. An archived version of Covington Catholic’s school newspaper described their opponent as “Clark County” in that game, which Covington won 59-38.
Snopes noted that the message board discussing “The Colonel Crazies” behavior indicated the intent of the black paint was not to mock black players from the opposing team but simply was part of the “black out” theme of the game.
That being said, at least one person in the thread posited a connection to racist minstrel shows from the 19th century that used blackface on white actors to depict African Americans unfavorably. “That guy on the right looks like he might have been researching minstrelsy before the game,” one post read.
As for Sandmann, he has insisted his interaction with Phillips was misinterpreted, releasing a statement to this effect:
Sandmann, the Covington (Kentucky) junior donning a MAGA cap, tried to dispel reports that he was mocking Nathan Phillips and other Native Americans at the end of the Indigenous Peoples March as they performed the “American Indian Movement” song at the Lincoln memorial.
“I never interacted with this protestor,” Sandmann said in a statement. “I did not speak to him. I did not make any hand gestures or other aggressive moves.”
Many people, including Phillips, disputed Sandmann’s claim that he was not provoking or mocking during the rally or confrontation.
Phillips told The Daily News: “I read it. I didn’t agree with it… They looked like a lynch mob.”