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Port Washington HS investigating 'inappropriate signs' targeting Nicolet standout Jalen Johnson

Signs showed Johnson wearing charcoal facial mask
Jalen Johnson
Posted at 1:21 PM, Feb 14, 2019

The Port Washington-Saukville School District condemns the use of a photo students displayed at a boys basketball game Wednesday night to taunt an opposing player.

The photo is getting national attention as some believe it was racially motivated.

The Port Washington-Saukville School District suspended a student for what they call an “extremely inappropriate photo, however, one Port Washington parent is coming to the defense of all students involved.

Nicolet’s Jalen Johnson is one of the top-ranked high school basketball players in the country, but Wednesday night it wasn’t his dominating performance that garnered national attention.

A photo has gone viral showing nearly the entire Port Washington student section holding up an unflattering photo of Johnson while he was shooting a free throw. It’s upsetting to Nicolet 2017 graduate Trevon Brown.

“Why did they choose that picture out of anything?” Brown questioned.

The photo was taken off Johnson’s social media page. Nicolet administrators said he was wearing a skin care product on his face at the time it was taken. The use of the picture by Port Washington students is perceived by some as blackface.

Blackface originated in the 19th century and was mainly used in the theatre by white performers to play roles of African American characters.

Clayborn Benson with the Wisconsin Black Historical Society said it was disrespectfully used elsewhere. He showed TODAY’S TMJ4 a picture taken in Milwaukee back in the late 1800s which shows more than a dozen white men wearing blackface.

“It’s a method to demean, to put down, to make African Americans feel less than human,” said Benson.

Port Washington High School principal Eric Burke said it was disappointed in its students.

“The signs can be viewed by some as racist, and are just plain wrong. As soon as school officials saw them, the signs were taken down,” Burke said.

A Port Washington parents who doesn’t want to be identified said he was at the game and doesn’t believe that was their intent.

“It’s strictly 100-percent to get a dominant athlete, get in his head a little bit and try to give us a little bit of an advantage,” the parent said.

Nicolet administrators sent a statement, reading in part, “Jalen is more than a tremendous athlete: he is a fine, upstanding young man and deserves to be treated with respect and courtesy by all students and people, no matter what bench they are rooting for.”