Yesterday, I learned about a little New England town called Duxbury, a fancy suburb located about 35 miles outside of Boston, which is a perfectly fine city I’ve visited a few times. Zillow tells me the typical value of a home in Duxbury is $718,842 and trending up, so I definitely couldn’t afford to buy a house there, but it is surely known as a good place to raise your children for those who can afford it. The high school football team is also very good. None of that, really, is why you and I and everyone else are learning so much about a random posh-person suburb once nicknamed “De-luxe-bury.” We are here because that successful football program’s long-tenured coach thought it was OK to use “Auschwitz” as an audible. He and his team were using “rabbi” and “dreidel,” too.
Here is what I can tell you so far about how this happened. Duxbury’s football team recently played its season-opener against Plymouth North. During that game, someone with Plymouth North heard Duxbury players use “rabbi,” “dreidel,” and “Auschwitz” as audibles at the line of scrimmage. It is perhaps no surprise that those words really stuck out to someone at Plymouth North, and Plymouth North officials told people at Duxbury about it, which lead to an investigation.
This is, to be clear, not exactly what the public was told at first. First, people noticed that Duxbury’s head coach was missing from its next game. On Monday, school district leadership told reporters that “highly offensive language” had been used at the game, and that an investigation was happening, and nothing else. The team’s head coach, Dave Maimaron, issued a statement which, you will be shocked to learn, tried to make him sound totally not at fault. From the Boston Globe: “As a special education teacher and a coach, with a multi-racial family, I have a lengthy record of helping students and athletes of all races, religions and capabilities to become the best they can be. I view the football field in particular to be the largest classroom in the school and have developed an inclusive program that welcomes, and makes part of the team, any student who wishes to participate.”
If you guessed that I am including this statement because it would proven to be a giant pile of meaningless jibber-jabber, you have made a good guess!
On Tuesday, the local superintendent updated reporters on the investigation, saying it had found that the players used “anti-Semitic and potentially other inappropriate and derogatory language” as audibles. The initial email to reporters didn’t say what the words were, but Robert Trestan, executive director of the Anti-Defamation League’s Boston office, then told the Globe in an interview what the words were: “rabbi,” “dreidel,” and “Auschwitz.” Trestan also confirmed the use of “Auschwitz” to the Patriot Ledger.
I’m pretty sure it was the details revealed Tuesday by the ADL that made the story go viral. It surely was when reporters started digging into how this all could have happened. After all, isn’t it really obvious you shouldn’t use “Auschwitz” as an audible? So far, the Globe has reported that one former student told them that the audibles had been meant for use in practice only; “rabbi” was used to indicate the right side. I have not yet seen any reporting explaining how, when, or why the team added “dreidel” or “Auschwitz” to its tactical mix.
Admittedly, I’m botching some basic principles of journalism here. Don’t assume the reader knows what Auschwitz is or what a rabbi is, let alone what the rabbi does; you really can’t expect a non-Jew, which is most people in the United States, to recognize “dreidel,” even if there is a catchy children’s song about it. And there are people who still need things explained to them, including whoever at the Globe signed off on using the novel phrases “Holocaust-related” and “Jewish words” to describe what was said. “Holocaust-related” even made it into two headlines before finally getting upgraded to antisemitic. What else can be said about a location where a million people were systematically murdered by the state but that it was, and is, “Holocaust-related.” It also has not been reported whether anyone at any of these many practices where it was used ever stopped and said, “Should we really be using rabbi as an audible?” Maybe no one did.
Teenagers are impossibly stupid, though, which means the natural follow-up question is what about the adults? What did they know? And especially that long-tenured head coach with the nonsense statement? Dave Maimaron, the guy with the multi-racial family and a self-proclaimed lengthy record of helping athletes of all races, religions, and capabilities, is an ex-coach now; he got fired from coaching football on Wednesday, and he was also placed on administrative leave from his job teaching special education. Superintendent John Antonucci made sure to issue a letter to the community, and you know he was serious because he used the fancy letterhead for it. In his letter, the superintendent assured people “we recognize how serious this is, and it is getting our undivided attention.” The school district added that it has hired an outside investigator, who is “conducting a full investigation of all of the allegations made against the program in the most expeditious manner possible.” The upcoming varsity football game has been canceled.
This is the part of the post where I’m supposed to express outrage at what happened in Duxbury, with a side of eye-rolling at the Globe for good measure. But, truth be told, nothing about antisemitism or even just general lack of basic knowledge and understanding about Jews surprises me; the shape of the ignorance can be startling, as it is here, but it’s nothing new. So I will now do my best to not think about Duxbury, Massachusetts, ever again. I have a Seder plate to get ready, and I forgot to buy horseradish.