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River Valley High football players apologize for participating in mock slave-auction video

River Valley High students apologize for participating in mock slave auction video
River Valley High students apologize for participating in mock slave-auction video 03:23

YUBA CITY -- A prank video showing students putting on a mock slave auction at a Yuba City high school has had real-life consequences for students who participated. 

The school's varsity football season was forfeited as too many players were suspended from the team to be able to continue the season.  Plus, students and school leaders are having to face firsthand the hurt that the video has caused the community. The disturbing video depicts white students at River Valley High School "auctioning" off black students as slaves in a football locker room. 

On Monday night, the Greater Sacramento NAACP chapter hosted a meeting calling for systemic change after this viral video was posted on TikTok. 

When it comes to leading by example, three River Valley High School students and football players who participated in that video spoke up, saying they regret their actions and have learned a hard lesson. 

River Valley High School students
Members of the River Valley High football team.

"I did not want to do it but looking back I wish I had done more to stop it," said Adrian, a sophomore. "When the video was made I was not feeling good about it and I froze. I wanted to get it over with so I could get to practice."

River Valley students Adrian, Marcos, and Alex admit to taking part in the video with several other team members, though not willingly at first. 

The NAACP and parents of the students have asked that CBS only identify the students who have chosen to come forward by their first names. 

"Part of me knew it was wrong when it was happening and I didn't have the courage to stop myself or my teammates and I wish I would have," said Marcos, a junior. "I am here today because I want people to know I am sorry. I apologize to anyone I have hurt or offended."

CBS is choosing not to show the disturbing video that depicts the Black teenagers as slaves in their underwear. The Greater Sacramento NAACP President Betty Williams watched the video and calls it shocking. 

"They were being auctioned off by the white students and they had nooses or belts around their necks to indicate they have or will be hung," said Williams. 

These three students described giving in to peer pressure from other team members at the moment. 

"They needed another person to be in the video and being the only black person left in the locker room they all turned to me. I made it clear I didn't want to do it and tried to leave but wasn't able to," said Alex, a senior. 

All three of these football players received three-day suspensions. Their parents say they were removed from the football team. The school's varsity season had to be forfeited as a result of all of the suspensions. The team would not have had enough remaining players to continue the season. 

"And I am hurt that the school moved so quickly to punish us instead of taking their time to understand the situation better," said Adrian. 

Williams says in conversations with the district Monday she asked why some white students who participated in the filming of the video were allegedly given lighter punishments than some of their black classmates who were in the video. 

"We do not believe the approach to prioritize punishment over education was most prudent. We also believe the punishment was not equitable in their distribution," said Williams. 

Her call to action is bigger than just River Valley High School. She says this type of systemic racism is often hiding in plain sight. This video and fallout are just a loud example of an often silent problem. 

"Every district is responsible to make a change," said Williams. 

The three students who came forward to apologize have promised to learn from this and to be an example. 

"This video was harmful to the entire black community who counts on people like myself who counts on people like myself to stand against these wrongs rather than participate in them," said Alex. 

"I hope I would have the courage to stop something like this if I saw it happen in the future," said Marcos.    

CBS13 did not receive a response from Yuba City Unified school district leaders Monday when asked for comment on how the district is working with the NAACP to bring about change at River Valley High School. 

Williams said today she has felt heard so far in these ongoing conversations that are meant to make sure there is accountability within River Valley leadership.

She advocates for fostering cultures of inclusion, adding more black teachers and staff members for more representation, teaching more comprehensive lessons on black history, and continuing these important conversations. 

"We want to change the culture and the climate of the school," said Williams. 

In light of other recent racially charged incidents at schools outside of River Valley, the Greater Sacramento NAACP is asking for information about any discriminatory events happening in school districts across the region so they can keep track of when and when they are happening. If necessary, they plan to involve the national chapter of the NAACP. 

Complaints can be submitted to the chapter online. 

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