OPINION: Holy Ghost Prep’s Response to a Now Former Basketball Coach’s Racism Fails Students and the Larger Community

The coach who compared Black kids in Philadelphia to "apes in fever" is no longer employed at the school, but his basketball training business still uses the school's facilities.
Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Whenever blatant and overt racism rears its ugly head, the common response from community members is shock. But we should not be so shocked. I know I wasn’t when I came across one such example in a local community group on Reddit that was originally posted on Facebook by former Holy Ghost Prep freshman basketball coach Brian Cartin.

This school employee, charged with carrying out HGP’s mission of  forming “young men morally, intellectually, and spiritually in the Spiritan tradition,” publicly compared young Black kids in Philly to “apes in a fever” in a Facebook post May 16. 

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After investigating, I uncovered that Coach Cartin either left, or was removed from his position at the prestigious private Catholic High School in Bensalem shortly after the incident – or declaration of racism. This job posting is from June 13.

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However, Cartin’s basketball coaching business Philadelphia Express Basketball Training Academy has been hosting practicing sessions at the prestigious Catholic school’s campus in Bensalem all summer. This begs the question: why would the school either seek to remove him, or accept his resignation, while allowing him continued access to their facilities? Something doesn’t add up.

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When I contacted the school to comment on the matter, their Director of Communications yielded the following response:

“Brian Cartin is no longer an employee of Holy Ghost Prep and we have begun a search for a new freshman basketball coach. The agreement with the Philadelphia Express Basketball program is under review. We have no further comment.”

I’m not entirely sure what remains for them to “review.” The school must be aware of the situation and its implications, or the now former coach would likely still be employed there. Meanwhile, they allow a person willing to publicly denigrate Black kids by comparing them to apes to continue coaching and mentoring young kids on their campus via his private business. These actions speak much more loudly than their lack of public denunciation of Mr. Cartin’s actions.

My own lived experience also clues me into what Cartin and others were, and likely still are thinking around this. Probably somewhere along the lines of “It’s just a joke, everyone is too sensitive.” Words like “crybaby” and “snowflake” are often used to describe those who take exception to the abhorrent opinions expressed in “jest.”

Because it’s all just a joke, right?

I was fortunate enough to find a number of concerned parents and community members who thought otherwise. They wish to remain anonymous due to the small, tight-knit community surrounding HGP basketball in particular, and the vicious and vengeful blowback for speaking out against racism or other forms of bigotry that we have seen in Bucks County. Their names have been changed. Here is just how funny they found Mr. Cartin’s “joke”:

“This is a mentor to young men and I can’t understand why an institution like that would stand behind a blatant racist.” Sue S.

“Yes he is 100 percent still operating from their gyms and he was fired for this but the school is trying to spin it that he stepped down. He’s also the athletic director for Crispin gardens which is a department of recreation for the city of Philadelphia…I called and asked if they [Holy Ghost Prep] were aware and I was told yes and they just hung up.” Reed R.

“I was absolutely horrified when a friend sent me a screenshot of Holy Ghost bball coach Brian Cartin’s facebook post. It is unbelievable to me that someone who coaches children would refer to young Black kids as “apes”. It is disgusting that he even has that as his vocabulary to begin with – but even more alarming that he thought it was something that was acceptable to post on social media.” John S.

“When I saw Brian’s post I was disappointed and completely disgusted, especially that he is a coach and in a mentoring position of young impressionable men. I wish Ghost would have done more than just let him go from the coaching position, but he’s allowed to use their facilities? That to me makes no sense.” Ben G.

”I saw the FB post and was pretty taken aback by just how mask-off racist it was. I know he is still using Holy Ghost facilities to host his workouts. I’ve also heard through the grapevine he basically is showing no remorse or self reflection about the whole situation. This guy shouldn’t be around young men mentoring them. Holy Ghost isn’t some rinky dink rec center. It’s a prestigious school. Them allowing him to use their facilities lends legitimacy.“ Franklin R.

Holy Ghost Prep might do well to stop treating this as an insignificant joke, and start taking seriously how they can address manifestations of bigotry and those who espouse them on their grounds and among their community members. The school has an opportunity here to live up to its professed values and be transparent with the community it serves on how it handled this issue, and how it plans to address issues of this nature whenever they might arise in the future. It’s a teachable moment not just for the school, but for the entire community that is waiting to see this prestigious institution take some responsibility and model how best to object to racism.

With regards to Mr. Cartin, all I can say is this – always remember that you undermine your own humanity when you deny it in others. Read that again.

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Kevin E. Leven

Kevin E. Leven is co-leader of the Bucks County Anti-Racism Coalition, A 501(c)(3) nonprofit charity organization dedicated to educating, informing, and taking action on matters of racial justice.

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