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Prep sports writer Wes Nakama is one of the best when it comes to covering everything that moves in the world of high school sports.
He thought he was writing an innocuous blog post on Nov. 9 on his "Prep Talk" about how difficult it is to follow the girls' and boys' seasons now that they are running concurrently, particularly during state tournaments. He got the usual feedback about scheduling difficulties and the lack of practice time for players, which then veered into talk about equality for boys' and girls' sports and debates over Title IX. There were some snarky comments about whether it's more fun to watch boys or girls play.
Then somehow the comments took a drastic turn when posters claiming to play for one of the girls' high school basketball programs made disparaging comments about their coaches.
The posts were anonymous but before long serious allegations were flying. Nobody alleged physical contact between the coaches and players but the postings spoke about inappropriate remarks and behavior toward the players.
Nakama began deleting posts that disparaged the coaches or could not be validated and urged the posters to take up their concerns with their parents or school administrators.
"Blasting these accusations out publicly on this blog will not solve the problem, if there really is one to begin with," he wrote.
The posters responded that they could not bring their concerns to their parents, some of whom are friends with the coaches. One said the administrators would simply back up the coaches.
Some readers urged Nakama to investigate. "Just do your research," one wrote. "It's not hard and we hope that you can be an advocate for what is right. If you delete this comment or the one before, I understand and we'll continue to live this lie and lose our identity more."
The posts seemed credible and we wanted to know if they were true. At the same time, we knew they could have been a prank, overblown or part of a vendetta. It is one of the reasons I have not identified the school in this column.
Nakama provided his phone number and e-mail address and encouraged the posters to come forward but none have done so. He also urged them to contact someone in authority with their claims.
"In the meantime, please consider taking any serious issues to an adult who can help, whether it's a parent, sister, brother, grandma, grandpa, auntie, uncle, friend, teacher, counselor, pastor, former coach, administrator, etc." he wrote. "Someone like that probably would be in a better situation to solve the problem than myself or this blog."
Nakama and others on our staff made calls to those close to the basketball program. He found nothing conclusive and is still investigating but concluded that the allegations are not widely known at the school. He also contacted an assistant athletic director and notified him of what was appearing on the blog. According to a few of the posts, there has been a team meeting to discuss the concerns.
Blogs can take on a life of their own and for a few days, this one certainly did. Nakama takes his blog seriously and has spent hours wiping out wild accusations. One of the assistants on the boys basketball team at the same school asked The Advertiser for the deleted posts to provide to the administration, but we declined.
None of us, Nakama included, are anxious to shut down the flow of conversation but we have to protect those whose reputations can be harmed by unfounded assertions.
"This is supposed to be a forum for those who follow high school sports," Nakama said. "I have been erring on the lenient side to encourage free speech and the free flow of discussion. The more we censor, the less of an open forum it becomes."
Nakama did everything correctly. He monitored the blog, he was careful to make sure the content was not offensive or unfair, he deleted the posts he thought inappropriate and he reached out to those who seemed to need help. He investigated and has made himself available to anybody who wanted to contact him.
The ending has not been satisfactory because we still do not know the truth. But one cannot blame Nakama for not doing all he could to protect the accused and the accusers.
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