- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 26, 2009

HAGERSTOWN, Md. | Maryland high school athletes have a new code of conduct, prompted by charges that football players in Cumberland used racial slurs against opposing players during a game last year.

Race-baiting was already forbidden but “maybe it doesn’t hurt to say so” in the student-athlete handbook, said Ned Sparks, executive director of the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association.

He said the code was added this school year to a Respect the Game handbook that is distributed annually to the 4,800 team captains in the association’s 192 member schools.

“It’s a good step in the right direction,” Mr. Sparks said. “Maybe peer leadership and things like that will help students become better sportsmen in their actions and help them to respect the game.”

He said student athletes devised the code, which begins with “Respect our diversity.”

“Respect all individuals regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual nature or religious beliefs. Comments, slurs, innuendoes, gestures or actions that degrade anyone are not to be tolerated,” the entry reads.

Race-baiting is considered unsportsmanlike conduct, punishable in football by a 15-yard penalty and disqualification of the offender.

Mr. Sparks said the association is revising its rule book to define conduct code violations as “detrimental to a tournament.” A violation during district, regional or state tournament play would force the offender to sit out the next game.

Mr. Sparks said the association decided to take the step after last September’s aborted game between Dunbar, of the District, and Fort Hill, of Cumberland.

Dunbar forfeited after its coach ordered his team off the field, claiming that members of the mostly white Fort Hill squad had used racial slurs against his black players. School officials in Cumberland denied that any race-baiting occurred.

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