A Springfield, Mo., high school football controversy is currently being heard in court. If allegations made by quarterback Kylan Mabins are true, Kickapoo High School’s coaching staff has a problem with homophobia and racism.
After starting on Kickapoo’s football team during his sophomore and junior years, Mabins transferred to rival Glendale in March 2023 with the intent of playing his senior year there.
However, Kickapoo protested the transfer and the Missouri State High School Activities Assn. ruled Mabins ineligible in July. Mabins took them to court and the case was heard on Monday. During the hearing, Mabins (who is Black) testified about enduring racist and homophobic vitriol from the Kickapoo coaching staff, which prompted him to transfer.
According to a report from the Springfield Daily Citizen’s Steve Pokin, Mabins told the court of a meeting where one of Kickapoo’s coaches attempted to motivate him to focus on throwing the ball to multiple receivers. He did so by asking if Mabin and his preferred receiver were “lovers.”
When questioned by the MSHSAA’s lawyer if the coach’s question was intended to be facetious, Mabins answered that the coach was being “demeaning.”
It’s not hard to imagine football coaches using this straight-up homophobia in a bygone era as a “challenge to Mabins’ manhood” and a way to imply that he was weak. In 2023, though, this kind of language is clearly seen for what it is: hateful and abusive.
As Mabins continued to testify, it also appeared to be the tip of the iceberg. He related another instance from practice where he lost a footrace to his back-up quarterback who was white. Afterwards, one of Kickapoo’s coaches snidely remarked, “I thought Black guys were supposed to be fast.”
Mabins told of another moment where he and some of his Black teammates were playing rap music in the weight room. At one point, a Kickapoo assistant coach entered and told them, “You people might listen to this music, but when I’m in here, I’m not going to listen to it.”
If these allegations of homophobia, racism, and hate speech are true, it’s understandable why Mabins would want to leave Kickapoo’s team as quickly as possible.
Springfield Public Schools attorney Ransom Ellis told the court that that the school district had investigated Mabins’ allegations and had hired a St. Louis-based law firm to lead it. However, Mabins’ lawyer countered that no one from the investigation had interviewed the Mabins family.
A decision in the case has not been reached.