EAGLE GROVE | With cheering fans decked out in purple and yellow, proud parents and a loud band in the gym, the casual observer Tuesday night would never know the Eagle Grove boys basketball team had faced unearned, unwanted and unwelcome controversy this week.
The Globe Gazette reported Monday that two KIOW Radio employees made racist comments about Eagle Grove players during a game against Forest City last week. Both were fired from the station.
The fans and the team approached Tuesday's game against Belmond-Klemme like any other: it was crowded, and the Eagles won.
“Overcome it and move on,” former Eagle Grove student and basketball player Dalton Schaffer said of the mentality for the game.
Schaffer, 19, graduated last year and played with Spencer Espejo, Enzo Gebara and Nikolas Padilla, the three players mentioned in the video. The three teens and their families declined an interview with the Globe Gazette.
“It’s devastating that someone would say that about anybody,” he said. “After hearing that, my gut got really sick, and just to hear people talk about Eagle Grove like that.”
Dustin Smith, father of Eagle Grove basketball player Ryan Smith, was also disappointed.
“I was upset by the comments,” Dustin Smith said. “Our players have really united in the face of this controversy.”
He said the boys have been dealing with the controversy in their own way.
“We’ve been really proud of how the boys have responded,” Dustin Smith said.
Thank you everyone for your sympathy. I am proud to be Hispanic and of my background culture. I don't want Mr. Harris to be known for his devastating remarks. He made a terrible decision, I accept his apology and want him to move on with his life as I will with mine. #EGSTRONG— Nikolas Padilla (@NikolasPadilla7) December 4, 2017
One of the boys mentioned in the video, Nikolas Padilla, took to Twitter to respond to the comments.
“Thank you everyone for your sympathy," the tweet said. “I am proud to be Hispanic and of my background culture.”
Padilla went on to say that he didn’t want Orin Harris, one of the fired KIOW employees, to be known for his “devastating remarks.”
“He made a terrible decision, I accept his apology and want him to move on with his life as I will with mine,” Padilla wrote.
He and other Eagle Grove supporters used the hashtag, #EGSTRONG.
“Niko, a great young man, stepped up and made a great decision,” Schaffer said. “A lot of kids could have taken it a whole different direction.”