Center Grove High School in Indiana is investigating after a White student football player was accused of donning blackface.
Fox 59 reported the photo showed the student's face covered in what appeared to be eye black, a greasepaint typically applied under players' eyes to deflect the glare from stadium lights or the sun.
The photo allegedly targeted a Black member on the opposing team from Westfield High School. It was posted online after Center Grove defeated Westfield, 27-21, on Saturday, November 27.
A photo shared on Twitter showed the student's face blurred.
Westfield High School football player Popeye Williams, who is an edge rusher committed to the University of Louisville, believed he was targeted because the Center Grove student in the photo was sporting black marker drawings on his arm closely resembling his own arm tattoos.
“To the kid that did that, you know, I wish you the best,” Williams told WISH TV.
“I will forgive him for what he did and move on from it.”
You can watch a video clip of the news report from WISH TV.
Williams endeavored to have a positive conversation for the love of the game in an Instagram post with the hashtag: #spreadlovenothate.
“So a lot of you don’t know they were imitating me," he wrote.
"I play this game Bc it’s a passion of mine and I have no choice but to play this game. This game comes with trash talking and physicality but never does it come with those actions."
"It was a hell of a game from both teams and I LOVE games like those Bc iron sharpens iron for one but for two it’s way more fun that way. I want nothing but the best for those players and for them to be successful in life."
Blackface was a form of theatrical makeup during the 19th century used by predominantly non-Black performers to caricature and dehumanize dark-skinned people of African descent.
The practice is now widely considered racist and contributes to perpetuating offensive stereotypes of Black people, according to History.
While Williams attempted to focus on his passion for the game, others were less forgiving of the blackface incident.
Indigo Morrow, a junior at Center Grove High School, was shocked but "wasn't surprised."
“It’s not really common but every once in a while you will encounter racism at Center Grove,” she said.
The incident led Morrow to start a student-run group for minorities, called "Diversity Inclusion Union" (DIU), to give students a safe place to discuss their personal experiences with racism.
“It is disappointing to know that it is 2021 and people are still doing blackface and that there’s people trying to cover it up."
“It may not be something that’s big to you, but like to me and my friends, it’s actually a huge deal. So I would just want [the student] to apologize.”
Williams said some of the players from Center Grove's team reached out with an apology, but the student who donned blackface was not among them.
Center Grove High School first addressed the incident with a statement to the IndyStar.
Principal Jeffry Henderson wrote:
"CGHS administrators are aware of an inappropriate post on social media...This student’s actions do not represent the values of our athletic program, high school, or school community.”
Henderson also said he reached out to the principal at Westfield to "assure her that Center Grove will not tolerate racism or harassment of any kind."
“We follow our student handbook as we investigate allegations and issue discipline accordingly."
Williams had a message for his fellow Black students.
“To my fellow Black brothers, just keep your head up. Live every day with a passion (and) thrive to be great.”