Salmon River basketball coach says her players victims of ‘character assassination’ by tribal council member

March 24, 2019 GMT

The coach of the Salmon River High School girls’ basketball team has responded to allegations that her players and others racially taunted members of the Shoshone-Bannock Junior-Senior High School girls’ basketball team during the semifinal game of the 1A Division II state tournament on Feb. 15 in Nampa.

Paula Tucker, the coach of the Salmon River Savages, said in a statement released Friday that the allegations against her team and others by a member of the Shoshone-Bannock tribal council are unfounded and unsubstantiated. Tucker says her players were actually the ones abused during the game.

“I find it inconceivable that my players had to suffer through physical and verbal abuse during and after the game and now are being attacked and demonized with unsubstantiated allegations, weeks after the game,” Tucker said in her statement. “If the allegations of racial taunting by Salmon River players are true why haven’t we heard from the Sho-Ban coach, athletic director, principal or superintendent?”

Shoshone-Bannock School District officials have not yet made any comments about the alleged racial taunting.

On March 14, Shoshone-Bannock Tribal Council Secretary Donna Thompson sent a letter to the Salmon River School District and the Idaho High School Activities Association alleging that the Shoshone-Bannock Lady Chiefs players and fans were subject to racial taunts from Salmon River players, fans and parents as well as the referees officiating the game.

The Shoshone-Bannock Tribes then distributed Thompson’s letter to the state’s media.

Thompson claims that two players from the Salmon River High School Savages told Shoshone-Bannock Lady Chiefs players to “go back to the reservation where they belong” and that several Lady Chiefs fans were also the victims of racial taunts by Salmon River fans and parents as well as the referees.

Despite Thompson asking the Idaho High School Activities Association to consider her letter an official complaint, a member of the Shoshone-Bannock school board itself must report the incident to initiate an investigation, according to Ty Jones, the association’s executive director.

Jones said the Shoshone-Bannock School District has not yet levied an official complaint with the association.

Randy’L Teton, spokeswoman for the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes, told the Journal on Wednesday that the Shoshone-Bannock school board was expected to discuss the alleged racial taunting at the game during a Tuesday meeting but was unable to do so because not enough of the board’s members were in attendance to hold the meeting.

Though Thompson asked for a written apology from the Salmon River School District administration and the Savages coach, Tucker said in her statement she believes her players have now become the victims of “character assassination” and she called for it to stop.

Tucker said she has contacted the Idaho High School Activities Association as well as sports reporters and photographers, referees and anyone else not from Salmon River High School who was present at the game to discuss Thompson’s allegations.

“So far, absolutely nothing (in terms of proof) has been presented,” Tucker said. “Until someone offers up documentation, rather than hearsay, that the Salmon River girls’ basketball players taunted anyone, racially or otherwise, I will err on the side of innocent until proven guilty.”

Salmon River School District Superintendent James Doramus said his school district has not found anything to substantiate Thompson’s claims

The Salmon River Savages beat the Sho-Ban Lady Chiefs in the 1A Division II state tournament semifinal game in Nampa by a score of 66-45. The Salmon River School District is located in Riggins, which is in west-central Idaho about 50 miles north of McCall.

Though an official complaint against Salmon River High School has still not been lodged with the Idaho High School Activities Association, if one is, a formal investigation will be opened, and any repercussions will likely be initiated by the offending school’s administration.

However, the association itself can step in to ensure proper remedial action is taken, according to Jones.