The two school districts involved in the alleged anti-gay harassment of Kentucky basketball player Dalton Maldonado have released a joint finding and statement claiming Outsports "inaccurately reported and mischaracterized" the incident. The report by the Floyd County and Fayette County school districts says "that much of the article was completely untrue," claiming the story published on April 1, 2015, bordered on complete "fabrication."
The report said that eyewitnesses cited by Outsports now claim they were misquoted and their remarks taken out of context.
"While we are disappointed in the physical play and unsportsmanlike conduct by athletes on both teams, what happened that day is not at all what was described by Outsports.com," said Fayette County Public Schools Acting Superintendent Marlene Helm. "Our players, coaches and administrators were unfairly maligned and it is important for us to debunk the absolute mistruths in the online report." Fayette County Public Schools have asked for a retraction.
Outsports stands by its original story, including the eyewitness accounts, and has since spoken with another eyewitness who has corroborated various details of the story as previously reported. The sources quoted in the previous Outsports article, which included a teammate and an assistant coach, allowed their names to be used, while the schools' report rests on broad generalities and no attribution. Outsports has also been told by one source that they have faced pressure from the school since the story was released.
The altercation in question occurred after a high school basketball game between Betsy Lane High School and Bryan Station High School at Lexington Catholic High School on Dec. 28, 2014. Maldonado said he was called a "faggot" directly following the game - a fact corroborated by a teammate who told Outsports he heard the Bryan Station player use the slur directed at Maldonado.
Dalton Maldonado's story of coming out amidst fear
Kentucky high school basketball player Dalton Maldonado came out at a game after being called a gay slur. When the opposing team chased him in a car, his team rallied to his defense. Now he wants to help other young athletes.
The school claims no slur was used at any point during the altercation. "None of the Bryan Station High School basketball players or coaches knew that there was a gay player on the Betsy Layne team," the report says. "While there was unsportsmanlike conduct by both teams and their fans on and off the court, no single player was targeted. Descriptions of pounding on bus windows, car chases through the streets of Lexington, hotel lockdowns and police escorts went beyond hyperbole, to reach the bounds of outright fabrication."
However, most of these key facts have been and corroborated by every eyewitness to whom Outsports has spoken (the existence of a police escort is the only fact mentioned above that is in question by Outsports sources -- it is likely that a police escort was promised but never arrived).
"I am shocked and disappointed by the statements made by both schools dismissing this very real and serious situation that affected me deeply," Maldonado told Outsports shortly after he read the schools' report. "There are a number of witnesses who tell a very different story than the one put forward today. I'm surprised both schools are willing to go this far to cover up the truth, which was that I was severely bullied and harassed because of my sexual orientation.
"I originally hoped that by sharing my story I might help other teens come out and feel safe, but I have been shown none of that same support from my own school and county.
"I have messages from all of my coaches saying how proud they are of me for not saying anything back to the players who harassed me. If none of this happened, why do I have these messages? I just am completely disappointed in everything that has happened in this report and am at a loss for words."
At the core of the schools' joint report is a claim that no single student was targeted. "The bad sportsmanship between the two teams was not directed at any single player," the report states.
Maldonado has shared with Outsports one of the messages sent to him by one of his coaches about three hours after the incident (given alleged intimidation of sources, we are keeping all previously unreleased identities anonymous at this time, though Outsports has confirmed their identities). The message singles out Maldonado with praise for his restraint:
(Editor's note: We do not condone the use of the word "thug" in this context)
Despite what the report says, Maldonado and his teammate both report hearing Maldonado called a "faggot" in the gymnasium shortly after the game. In addition, the coach who sent the above message felt Maldonado was so targeted that he shared that message of appreciation.
At some point after the initial incident, a second altercation between players, coaches and fans of the two teams occurred outside the school. While the reports paints this as a relatively innocuous "boys will be boys" altercation that was quickly handled by the coaches, Outsports has acquired the dispatch log of the 911 call from the Lexington Division of Police. While the conversation on the call has been redacted, the police department labeled the incident a "terroristic threat." The letter accompanying the report identifies the call as having involved "an altercation at Lexington Catholic High School made December 28, 2014." A police officer was dispatched at 1:57 p.m. in response to the threat.
The schools' findings claim that Outsports' sources now say we fabricated most of the story. "Sources quoted by [Outsports] told school district investigators in Floyd County that their comments were taken out of context and confirmed that much of the article was completely untrue," the schools' report claims.
Outsports previously spoke with three people at the incident - Maldonado, a teammate and an assistant coach. Each of those people shared nearly identical accounts of the episode. I conducted those interviews and took detailed notes. Each source freely shared his memory of the incident, and they all matched one another with only minor details shifting.
At no point did any of our eyewitnesses make a claim that refuted what another source said or that contradicted another source's account. Sources were very clear that gay epithets were used during the altercation.
The schools' report claims that "no one from Bryan Station High School pounded on the windows of the bus or the bus itself." This claim by the schools has been refuted by every source to whom Outsports has spoken.
Maldonado told Outsports that during his interview with the school, the interviewer attempted to pressure him to back off of his story and say that he had an equal role in precipitating the conflict. Another source has told Outsports that he has felt pressure from the school district.
Outsports has contacted another eyewitness - a parent of a player on the Betsy Lane basketball team. They again corroborated the accounts of the incident from the two players and the coach.
"The other group of kids were saying a lot of bad language, trying to get on the bus to fight Dalton, calling him names," the parent said of the Bryan Station team. The parent said they did hear at least one person from Bryan Station yell the word "faggot" at Maldonado during the altercation at the bus. "The bus driver had to shut the door to keep them from getting on the bus."
The parent said that after a lengthy altercation, all of the Betsy Lane players and coaches headed to the team hotel in the bus. The parent followed the bus in a vehicle.
According to the schools' findings, the altercation ended there: "No Bryan Station players or fans were intentionally following the bus, they were just traveling in the same direction headed home."
However, according to our previous eyewitnesses - and now this parent as well- a number of Bryan Station players and students gathered in a car and pursued the bus. The parent echoed the account of Maldonado, the teammate and the coach that the players pulled up alongside the Betsy Lane bus shouting and waving gestures at the bus. That's when the bus pulled over to the side of the road.
"They were afraid that the guys from Bryan Station would know where their hotel was because they were afraid they would follow them there and do something," the parent said.
"They had their hands out the windows making signs and wanted us to be in fear," Maldonado said.
The parent said the players from Bryan Station eventually dispersed, and the Betsy Lane team went on its way to a local hotel. That's when the Betsy Lane coach called school administrators to discuss bringing the team home from the tournament before completing their schedule of games. Maldonado has shared with Outsports screen captures of a text message between a team coach and himself about a conversation with school principal Cassandra Akers the day of the incident.
"I know the school knew about it because our coach contacted them to bring the team back," the parent said.
The parent added that the entire Betsy Lane crew - including parents - had to walk into the gymnasium together the next day to ward off any potential attacks. The parent claimed they had been assured state troopers would escort them to the game, but no police were present to protect them.
The parent also corroborated Maldonado's account that the Bryan Station team was ordered not to attend the Betsy Lane games for the rest of the tournament, but that they showed up at halftime of their next game anyway.
"The coaches from both Betsy Layne and Bryan Station agreed that bad sportsmanship had been displayed on both sides and both coaches thought the incident had been resolved at that point," the schools' report claims.
To the contrary, the verbal abuse and physical threat from the Bryan Station players was so strong that the coach of the Betsy Lane team called school administrators about bringing the team home early. He then allowed any of his players to leave the tournament if they wished. Various witnesses, and the above text message sent between Maldonado and a coach, corroborate that the coach allowed students to leave if they were too disturbed by the incident.
As reported by Bryan Station High School athletic director Ryan Harrington, no report of the incident was made to him by the Bryan Station coaches.
Outsports stands by its original story that Bryan Station boys basketball players called Maldonado a "faggot," and that Bryan Station community members attacked the Betsy Lane bus verbally and physically and pursued the bus in a vehicle, continuing an attempt to intimidate the Betsy Lane team. Several named eyewitnesses have given testimony to that effect, and no named witness has refuted any of those facts. A 911 dispatcher labeled the incident a "terroristic threat," and the Betsy Lane coaching staff was so disturbed by the incident that they strongly considered pulling the team from the rest of the tournament.
You can read the schools' report here: Dalton Maldonado investigation .