EARLHAM, Iowa — Frustration erupted at Earlham High School’s football field Friday night after the team’s quarterback was allegedly called a racial slur by their opponents.
Earlham players say Darrell Matchem, who is Black, was targeted by Southwest Valley High School players with the “n-word” during the game.
“You could hear them talking about Darrell, which made everyone on our team very unhappy,” said teammate Kolby Sinclair. “All I heard was the ‘n-word.’ It was very loud, I could hear it from our sideline.”
His mother, Paulette Knox, said he told her the exact slur he heard.
“They said stay down, the n-word,” Knox said. “That is totally unacceptable. We don’t have to be reminded that we’re Black.”
Matchem was ejected from the game after teammates say he yelled back to Southwest Valley’s players. Sinclair said it was out of character for Matchem to show any kind of anger on the field.
“I’m pretty sure it was horrible what they said to him, so I understand why he did that,” Sinclair said.
Knox said her son has been depressed ever since the game ended, and even her other children have noticed the change in mood.
“He was very sad,” said Liam Ireland, Matchem’s younger brother. “He was crying, bawling his eyes out, he wouldn’t even come out of his room to eat. He usually plays football with me every day, but then he said, ‘I don’t feel like it.'”
“It’s devastating, it’s messed up,” Knox said. “It shouldn’t happen, and everyone across the board should know it’s not right.”
Matchem did not speak with WHO 13, but did send out a tweet quoting Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech shortly after the game.
The superintendents for Earlham and Southwest Valley released a joint statement Saturday saying they are investigating the incident as well as accusations of “inappropriate and aggressive fan and spectator behavior” that occurred after the game finished.
“The administration from the Earlham and Southwest Valley schools have been in touch and are working cooperatively to investigate these matters,” the joint statement said. “Both schools are committed to working through these serious matters in accordance with school and district policy.”
Both schools have notified the Iowa High School Athletic Association about the incident, according to the statement.
The matchup was Earlham’s homecoming game, and Matchem was voted Earlham’s homecoming king.
Southwest Valley won the game 15-13.