Olathe North High School’s head baseball coach Pete Flood has been placed on administrative leave after allegedly using a racial slur toward a Black player before a game on Thursday.
Tony Banks told The Star that his son, a senior and the only Black player on the team, helped set up speakers to play music during batting practice before a game against Olathe South. The teens were playing rap music as they took their swings, he said.
Banks said Flood walked up to his son, looked him in the eyes and told him, “We don’t play that N----- music over here. We only play country and rock music.”
He said several other families and players have contacted him to confirm that they witnessed Flood using the racial slur. Banks notified the district Thursday night.
“To say something like that directly to a kid in the presence of other kids — this person does not need to be where he can influence or impact anybody, especially children,” Banks said. “My son was hurt through this.”
Olathe officials said in a statement Friday afternoon that, “We are appalled by the remarks made by the Olathe North head baseball coach and have thoroughly investigated the situation.”
Officials said that they are recommending the coach be immediately fired. The school board has scheduled a special meeting for 8:15 a.m. Monday, where they will meet in executive session to discuss personnel.
“The comments made are absolutely unacceptable,” district officials said in the statement. “In the Olathe Public Schools, our priority is the well-being of ALL our students. Racist and derogatory statements will never be tolerated. This is not who we are in Olathe. Our focus now is on the support and care of our students.”
Flood did not immediately return a request for comment. Some Olathe school board members either did not return requests for interviews or declined to comment on the incident.
Banks shared the story on social media, which was quickly seen and shared by thousands of people. Many are calling for the district to immediately fire Flood.
“For an adult and a coach to say that in the open — to look (my son) in his face and call him that. That shows no respect, no regard, nothing for the kid,” Banks said.
Spokeswoman Maggie Kolb said that Flood has been employed by the school district since 1996. In 2003, he began serving as an assistant coach with the Olathe North football team. He took over as head coach in 2006.
In 2011, The Star reported that Flood announced he was resigning as head coach of the football team to spend more time with his family, but that he would continue to teach at the school. He is currently listed as a physical education teacher on the school’s website.
Kolb said that Flood started as Olathe North’s head baseball coach this school year.
Out of the school’s roughly 2,100 students, about 10% are Black, according to demographic data provided to the Kansas department of education. Nearly 30% of students are Hispanic, and 49% are white.
“I don’t think this (incident) is a reflection of the school, of the principal or of the athletic director. Maybe not even of the (baseball) program. Though, I question when you have a school that size with that high percentage of minority kids, that you don’t have more kids of color on the baseball program,” Banks said.
Banks said that his son, who is 18, has played baseball since he was 8 years old. He recalled several incidents where his family was mistreated and targeted because of their race while living in Johnson County, participating on predominately white teams.
“We would get called names. We would be told to go back to your own neighborhood and play. And we would be like, this is our neighborhood; we live down the road,” Banks said. “But it’s what they weren’t directly saying that was more of the issue.”
“My son has experienced this sort of thing his entire baseball career. And now this is an adult saying it, a coach,” he said. “I sometimes wonder why there aren’t as many baseball players of color. And it’s things like this that get in the way. It’s this attitude directing them away from the sport.”
Friday morning, Banks said he was working to force the school to block Flood from coaching again, including during the game scheduled for Friday night. But that game, against Shawnee Mission South High School, has been postponed.
Banks said he is relieved to hear the district is investigating the incident, but added, “if they don’t do what’s right, if they don’t handle this the right way, then I really will push to expose this.”