Clearing Up Misinformation About Covington Catholic’s Viral Photos

Clearing Up Misinformation About Covington Catholic’s Viral Photos January 22, 2019

We all know the story. Or at least we think we do. Except that the story changes depending on who you talk to or what you read.

“The Covington Catholic High School kids taunted and disrespected a Native American Vietnam War vet.”

“A group of Black Hebrew Israelites harassed and berated a bunch of white kids wearing MAGA hats.”

“An old man beating a drum instigated a confrontation with kids shouting school spirit chants.”

I’m not going to pretend I know who was in the wrong and who was in the right, or who started the problem or what everyone should have done instead. There are so many angles and sides to this confrontation that no matter what stance I take, I’m probably going to be wrong — because face it, I wasn’t there, and neither were you. Yes, there are a few videos from the event. But what happened before those? What happened after? What did the videos not capture? We’ll never know. Yes, it’s quite possible these MAGA-adorning kids could be racist little overprivileged douchebags who need Statue of Liberty figurines shoved up their asses so they remember what it means. Ok, that part is probably true. What I will say for certain is that the entire thing is upsetting, and I’m fairly certain there was a better way to react to this conflict for all involved. I’m just glad there was no violence.

But what irritates me about all of this is the viral campaign of misinformation and propaganda that has resulted since, and it’s making the Left look bad. In order to bolster the case that the Covington kids are racist as f— (and yes they probably are), people went digging for photos of Covington kids on the web that prove that the school is some kind of KKK training ground. And of course (in their minds) they found what they were looking for and spread it all over the interwebs.

But context is important.

I’m going to focus on the two photos I’ve seen the most. Here’s the first. This is being posted all over blogs and social media, claiming that the Covington kids in this photo are flashing “white power” hand signals.

Can we just put on our “critical thinking” caps for one second? I realize that sports aren’t always big with the “everything is racist and if you disagree so are you” crowd, but this is the hand signal for a made 3-point basket. I’ve been playing basketball for as long as I can remember, and I’ve seen or made this gesture while playing hundreds of times. Absolutely none of those times was anyone signaling the strength of his race. This is a photo of a basketball team making a hand gesture for a 3-pointer. And that’s all it is. Suggesting it’s anything else is just a display of your own confirmation bias and lack of objectivity.

The other photo circulating around is the “blackface” photo. This one is a little more difficult to explain but I’ll give it a shot. Before I do though, I will say this. I am not defending what’s in this photo, and I’m not condoning blackface. I’m simply offering an explanation from an objective point of view. As ill-advised as the body paint in this photo is, intent matters.

Four kids in this photo have their faces and upper bodies painted black. They did it for a reason and it’s not what you may think. This is called a fan blackout. Sometimes at sports events, teams will organize a blackout. That means all of the fans dress in as much black clothing as they can. When everyone does it, it looks pretty cool and many believe it’s intimidating to the opposing team. Unfortunately, some students went a little too far and ended up doing something that looks to an outsider as pretty damn racist. But again, it’s the intent that matters. Did the kids in this photo do it as an attempt to mimic a black person? I honestly don’t think so.

Snopes even did some research on this photo and found this:

Based on comments in the BluegrassPreps message board, the intent of the black body paint was not racial but was instead a school tradition related to “black out” games, during which fans wore black to support the team.

Should they have been turned away at the door by faculty and coaches? Absolutely, yes. Just as intent is important, so are optics. Regardless of intent, I agree, this makes the school look bad and the kids should have been educated about it and turned away.

As for those claiming the school is racist because they’re yelling at an opposing black player, we can find this answer easily online. Covington has a reputation for screaming at opposing players when inbounding the ball on their sideline, regardless of race. But again, those who suffer from confirmation bias will see all of this as racism because they want to, not because they’re objectively weighing the evidence.

I’ll just close with this bit of advice. Call the Covington Catholic School kids who were in Washington DC racist all day long. If that’s the conclusion you come to based on the video evidence, that’s your right. I’m not going to disagree with you. I have a hard time believing anyone wearing a MAGA hat in 2019 isn’t racist. But don’t make that conclusion based on these photos or support your conclusion with these photos. It weakens your case and makes you look like an alarmist with no critical thinking skills.


SecularVoices readers: I hope you enjoyed this piece and continue to enjoy the SecularVoices column! To support our work (and keep the coffee flowing), please consider springing for a cup o’ joe through the button below. And if you do, make sure you put your Twitter ID in the comments so we can follow you and send you a “thank you.”

Buy Me A Coffee

(I’ve discontinued the Patreon page for now. I think the coffee link is more appropriate and doesn’t force readers to commit to a recurring donation.)


Browse Our Archives

TRENDING AT PATHEOS Nonreligious
What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Milo C

    It was easy for me to be fooled by the article. I didn’t share anything from it until additional quotes (supposedly) from the Native American veteran circulated. And apparently that was enough to satisfy my echo chamber; two reports from essentially the same source. I’ll take this as a learning experience and walk back my comments. Thank you for putting together this summary.

  • sharon

    I cannot believe that parents would not complain about the flying asshole sign being bandied about at HS sporting events.

  • Tawreos

    The kid on the right side of the picture in blackface looks to me like he is more in minstrel territory than just black face paint for a blackout game, but that is just my opinion. Other than that my only thoughts, what few there were, pretty much ended with the smirk and the MAGA hats.

    • Ellen Mottley Tannenbaum

      I agree. The kids in blackface should have at least been made to wash that off. And this whole “black out fans” thing (which I and probably many other people have never heard of) might need to be thought about, as in just why black is considered intimidating, particularly by folks who wear MAGA caps.

      We seem to have lost the part of the story where the kids are there for a right to life rally and the Indians and others were there to protest that. There is a longer version of the video that shows people standing around talking and then the kids gathering, taunting and invading their space.

      And teaching kids the tradition to gang up and yell at anyone on the other team if they are nearby could possibly be where they learned acting like that is okay. Something being a tradition doesn’t make it okay.

      • Tawreos

        The school I went to has blackout games, but the school colors are red and black, so it makes sense. This school looks to be blue and white which says to me they should have had either a blueout or a whiteout. Penn State has similar colors and they have whiteout games every year.

    • EastCoastJ

      To me it ended with adult black racists who fantasize that they’re Bible characters barraging the high schoolers with racist and homophobic idiocy. (Adults doing that ? No wonder people make assumptions about the races when we see behavior like that).

  • Kelly Thompson

    Yea, I don’t buy it. Where are the parents, teachers and school administration. No one thought to tell this kid black face is racist, giving him the benefit of the doubt that he didn’t know. I think the adults are most likely just as racist and that’s why it was not addressed.

    • I agree. Like I said in the article, the kids shouldn’t have been allowed in the gym:
      “Should they have been turned away at the door by faculty and coaches? Absolutely, yes. Just as intent is important, so are optics. Regardless of intent, I agree, this makes the school look bad and the kids should have been educated about it and turned away.”

  • Lone Wanderer

    *Looks Kevin Davis in the eye*
    Know what I’ve learned about those who defend racists & bigots, Kevin? I’ve learned that they’re usually the people who say things like “I’m not a racist, but..”. In other words, at your core, you are a racist, and that’s why you are attempting to protect these puerile Fascists.

    • Uh yeah no. I’m not defending anyone. I’m warning against using misinformation to support your position. I guess you skipped over where I called the kids racist twice and said the kids in black paint shouldn’t have been allowed in the building. But go ahead, cherry pick all you want, that’s your right.

      • Pennybird

        Cherry picking really isn’t our right because it’s gotten us to a really ugly place that no one wants to be in. Well, Putin wants us here. But we need to try harder to be less judgmental out the gate, otherwise we’ll never solve this problem.

    • Sophotroph

      Fat, drunk, and stupid is no way to go through life, son.

      • Lone Wanderer

        Then stop looking in the mirror, asshole. I’m a college graduate, I don’t drink, and I pack enough muscle to break your jaw with one punch… come and get some.

        • Threatening people will get you blocked. This is your only warning.

        • FoCoBiking

          You’re a college graduate, yet you move pallets at 51 years old making $20/hour while pretending to be morally superior by screeching at internet “fascists”.

          Fix your own eyes, then you’ll see clearly to fix others.

      • Lone Wanderer

        By the way… flag My posts for any incorrect reason when I call your kind filthy Fascist scum, and I will find every comment you’ve made and mark them as spam. Disqus will be happy to remove you.

  • redgeek

    Background on the school : Covington Catholic was greatly expanded in …
    1954, just after the Brown decision. 13 Catholic parishes choose to leave
    public schools before they were integrated and came together in Covington.

    With black face tolerated at sporting events to taunt opposing black players,
    I see evidence of a long tradition of white supremacy at the school.

    From Wikipedia: “In the early 1950s, it became apparent
    that Covington Catholic High School would have to be expanded further to
    accommodate increased demand. Pastors from thirteen Northern Kentucky parishes
    approved plans for construction of a new 44,000-square-foot (4,100 m2) high
    school building on a 14-acre (57,000 m2) plot in Park Hills, a few miles away
    from the previous location in Covington. The cornerstone was placed in 1954,
    and the first class graduated from the school in 1955.”

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Covington_Catholic_High_School

    • David Barber

      “With black face tolerated at sporting events to taunt opposing black players,
      I see evidence of a long tradition of white supremacy at the school.” – but that’s not the case, is it? This article explains that, and I’ve seen it elsewhere regards all blue/orange/black etc. days for many institutions.

  • Jim Bishop

    I looked at the current faculty photos on the school’s web page and searched photos of the student body. A the moment there is not one non white person on the faculty or member of the student body. The place has the earmarks of a Catholic Racist Citadel, a nasty combination. Reading comments from supporters and members of the community there are overwhelming numbers of racist and hateful remarks.

    • David Barber

      It’s a 94%+ White area apparently. Similar areas exist with people of colour etc. No surprise there, and, as far as I am aware, they have some students of colour.

      As fro racist and hateful remarks – there’s tons from both ends of the political spectrum. People seem so intolerant today.

    • EastCoastJ

      You want them to start bussing in people of color ?

      • Jim Bishop

        There’s an idea. Sell one of the pope’s robes and they could fly in a bunch of non white students and pay their room, board, and tuition. An all white catholic school in the south, how typically christian. The sky daddy must be proud. You?

        • EastCoastJ

          Well….at least make them Filipinos. Already Catholic and high IQs. (Blacks are usually Protestant and only good for the basketball team).

          • P. McCoy

            Hey! Your Brownshirts are ready to be picked up from the cleaners!

    • EastCoastJ

      BTW : You should see how white and snobby Regis High School in NYC is ! Oh man..! (The standards for getting in are insanely high, but I bet a number of Indian kids would be in the student body IF it was open to non-Catholics, which Regis isn’t).

  • Pennybird

    Thanks for doing the homework for all of us. As far as the three pointer symbol, when I was growing up it also meant “okay.” I’ll bet people still use it that way too – I’m not sure if I do or not because hand gestures are often done on autopilot. We need to stop reading into things online when there is seldom the whole picture.

  • never_wore_zubaz

    You make reasonable points re: overreaction… but… *that’s* the conclusion you came to re: blackface?

    No idea where you grew up, or have lived, but around here blackface has been “Go home. Right now. You’re suspended until further notice” territory, has been that way since I was a little kid, and I’m 50 years old. ~No one~ in this day and age can reasonably claim that they’re unaware of just how problematic blackface is, intent be damned (unless it’s for the express purpose of satire, in order to point out how idiotic blackface is — there is no such thing going on with these dudebros).

    You can’t put your head in the sand over that.

    • As I said in the article, “Should they have been turned away at the door by faculty and coaches? Absolutely, yes. Just as intent is important, so are optics. Regardless of intent, I agree, this makes the school look bad and the kids should have been educated about it and turned away.”

      Remind me again how my head is in the sand.

      • never_wore_zubaz

        Don’t change the subject. I specifically referred to the blackface part.

    • jjramsey

      “~No one~ in this day and age can reasonably claim that they’re unaware of just how problematic blackface is”

      No one in this day and age should think that the Earth was created about 6000 years ago, either. Yet people do, and there are active miseducation efforts to push this state of ignorance.

      I would not be that surprised that a white kid in Kentucky — especially a student of a school that is to some degree designed to indoctrinate students into a conservative mindset — would be as ignorant about racial issues as creationists are about biology. We’re probably looking at a systemic problem with the school (as indicated by the failures of its adults to say something about the blackface!), not just a few malicious kids.

  • Lone Wanderer

    You are a piece of sanctimonious, Russian-worshiping Fascist shit… you wouldn’t have Putin as your avatar if you weren’t. So kiss My Liberal ass.

    • FoCoBiking

      You understand modern liberalism is exactly the same as Russian bolshevism, right?

      Learn history you incompetent twit. People like YOU have more blood on their hands than Hitler.

  • Lone Wanderer

    Wow… look at the teenager pretending to be a grown-up.. he whose nickname is short for “Fuck Her Right In The Pussy”.. by the way, asshole, I’ve known more women.. in your precious Biblical sense.. than you will ever know. The fact that you use an acronym which is short for a puerile expression which comes from the Urban Dictionary tells Me that you’re about sixteen years old.. I’m three times your age, punk. Know what? That still wouldn’t prevent Me from bringing you the pain, face to face.

    • You bring absolutely no value to the conversation — just threats and aggressive bullshit. I gave you fair warning. Enjoy your banishment. No one is impressed.

  • Lone Wanderer

    Asshole, I am the son of a man who served and fought in World War II, as did My uncles.. I know the true nature of the evil called Fascism, and I will not let it take this nation down. The fact that you protect Fascists makes you one of them, troll.. and the only GOOD Fascist is a DEAD Fascist.

    • FoCoBiking

      And Patton himself said we killed the wrong enemy. YOU are the actual enemy, low IQ communist.

      And you’re what, 65 years old? Seriously boomer? What are you going to do in an actual war except eat bullets and die at the hands of far right combatants who want nothing more than to set you on fire in front of your family?

      You’re all talk homie. Best of luck in your “war”, you’ll need as much as you can get.

  • Lone Wanderer

    BAHAHAHA.. the moronic Fascist believes in idiotic make-believe things like SOULS.. LOLOLOL!! By the way, asshole.. I’m a 51 year old male, as opposed to your trollish sixteen year old self. I play the Fallout games as a means of venting aggression which would otherwise be turned into realtime actions against those like you.

  • FoCoBiking

    He’s a 65 year old boomer that makes illegal threats on Disqus and makes a whopping $20 bucks an hour moving pallets.

  • I wrote an FB post about this. It’s just so fscking pathetic, how those who realized they could not incriminate the boys to the extent they desired started grasping at whatever straws they could to make them guilty by multiple levels of association. That this is what politics has come to really blows my gaskets (while wasting my time fighting Brandolini’s Law in action).
    https://www.facebook.com/sohandsouza/posts/10156583024980862