High school cancels rest of baseball season after players protest coach's removal amid Title VI investigation
A Florida high school has canceled the remaining six games of its baseball season after players walked out in protest of the dismissal of their head coach.
Fort Myers High School Principal Robert Butz emailed parents of players on the team to inform them the season had been cut short.
"After meeting with every varsity baseball family and evaluating our options for the rest of the season, I must inform you that I have made the decision to cancel the rest of our baseball regular season and district play," Butz wrote.
"This was not an easy decision to make, but the current status of our team and coaching staff does not provide a viable path forward for the remainder of the season."
The team has been mired in controversy since February, when assistant coach Alex Carcioppolo allegedly used a racial slur when referencing his players in a team group chat. He allegedly wished the team a "Happy Valentine's Day," followed by the N-word, and he was removed from his role two days later.
The School District of Lee County launched a Title VI investigation against the team March 8. Title VI of the Civil Rights Act "prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin in any program or activity that receives Federal funds or other Federal financial assistance."
On April 5, head coach Kyle Burchfield, while remaining a social studies teacher at the school, was removed from his position with the team.
Fox 4 Southwest Florida notes he was removed "because of the integrity of the investigation." The day after Burchfield's removal, members of the team walked out in protest during a game against Estero High School, which resulted in a forfeit.
The school was also fined $500 for unsportsmanlike conduct after its athletic director, Steve Cato, reported the incident.
"We are still trying to identify all of the players and coaches involved," Cato wrote to the FHSAA. "We did have 5-6 players who remained on the field and in the dugout to play the game, but without enough to continue we had to forfeit the game."
Cato wrote that the walkout stemmed from an "ongoing situation within the baseball program."
Some families allege the walkout targeted the team's Black players.
"Not one Black team member was told about the walkout. So they weren’t able to participate," Dee Tucker, the parent of a player, told WINK news in Fort Myers. "It was planned only for two Black kids to be left behind. This is 100% premeditated and malicious."
"This has left me to question the ethics and behavior by peers and adults witnessed by impressionable young men," added another parent, Shane Riley.
Cato did not immediately reply for comment.