Ohio high school football coach resigns after team used ‘Nazi’ as play call
By Jesús Jiménez
A high school football coach in the Cleveland area resigned last week after he and his team repeatedly used the word “Nazi” as a play-call reference during a game on Sept. 22, school officials said.
The coach, Tim McFarland, who led Brooklyn High School’s football team, and his players used the term in the first half of a game against Beachwood High School, Robert Hardis, the superintendent of the Beachwood schools, said in a statement. Brooklyn High School, from the southwest Cleveland suburb of Brooklyn, was playing as the visiting team in Beachwood, Ohio, a predominantly Jewish suburb southeast of Cleveland.
After Beachwood High School officials, including the athletic director and the head coach, learned what was happening on the field late in the first half of the game, they notified game officials, Hardis said.
McFarland acknowledged that his team had been using the word “Nazi” as a play call, apologized and said his team would use another word for its play call in the second half of the game, Hardis said.
“We informed the officials that should this continue, we would pull our players from the field,” Hardis said. “To our knowledge, ‘Nazi’ was not used during the second half. Late in the game, it was also reported by our team that several Brooklyn players used a racial slur freely throughout the night.” He did not specify what the slur was.
Theodore Caleris, the superintendent of the Brooklyn City Schools, said in a statement last Tuesday announcing McFarland’s resignation that the coach had expressed “his deepest regret about the matter, and offers his sincerest apologies to the Beachwood and Brooklyn School communities.”
He added, “While to the district’s knowledge the language was not directed to any single individual, the Brooklyn City Schools acknowledges that using such offensive language in the first place was utterly and absolutely wrong.”
McFarland did not respond to a phone message and an email Tuesday requesting comment.
It was unclear who had decided to use the term in the play call for the Sept. 22 game. It was also unclear whether the players or other members of the coaching staff would face discipline.
Michael Becker, the Brooklyn High School athletic director, did not immediately respond to a phone message and email Tuesday requesting comment.
The episode happened at a time when antisemitic incidents have been on the rise. The Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish advocacy group, said in a report that the number of antisemitic incidents in the United States in 2022 was the highest since 1979, when the organization began recording such acts, including online harassment, speech and physical attacks.
Caleris said the Brooklyn City Schools had been contacted by the Anti-Defamation League, which offered to serve as a resource to “promote understanding and tolerance.”
The Anti-Defamation League of Cleveland said in a Facebook post on Sept. 24 that “there is no room in sports for Holocaust references and racial slurs.” It added, “Student athletes should be put in a position to best reflect their school’s commitment to inclusive, fair play.”
Brooklyn High School’s football team also drew criticism from city officials in Beachwood.
Mayor Justin Berns of Beachwood and the City Council said in a joint statement Sunday that “Brooklyn’s behavior violates the norms and expectations of conduct that should be taught to every student.”
The mayor added, “We commend Beachwood’s football team, which took the right action by calling out this behavior while continuing to hold themselves to high standards of conduct.”