Antisemitic remarks shouted at St. Viator-Deerfield soccer game

Originally published by: Daily Herald

Antisemitic slurs shouted by a spectator during a recent girls soccer playoff game between St. Viator High School and Deerfield High have been condemned by both schools.

The remarks during the May 23 game in Deerfield were aimed at Deerfield players, who represent a community with a sizable Jewish population.

"As a school community, we stand united against all acts of hatred on our campus, in our local communities, and across our nation and our globe," Deerfield High School Principal Kathryn Anderson said in an email to the school community. "We will stand up and fight against prejudice."

St. Viator is a private Catholic school. Its president, the Rev. Dan Lydon, called the jeers "deplorable and unacceptable."

"Saint Viator High School and the entire Viatorian community make every effort to provide a community of faith that supports and recognizes those of all faiths," Lydon said in a statement posted to the Arlington Heights school's website. "We strongly condemn antisemitism, and we will not tolerate hateful acts or discrimination of any kind."

Lydon couldn't be reached for additional comment Wednesday.

The taunts, which included references to the Holocaust, were hollered by a male spectator during the second half of the Class 2A sectional semifinal contest.

The then-scoreless game was halted for about 10 minutes after Deerfield player Jessie Fisher reported the taunting to game officials.

Fisher, who is Jewish, was surprised and angered by what she'd heard. So were her teammates.

"Everyone was like, 'Did that really happen?'" Fisher said Wednesday.

Fisher said it was the first time she'd personally been confronted with antisemitism. Reports of antisemitic incidents reached an all-time high in the U.S. in 2022, according to the Anti-Defamation League, but the problem didn't feel real to Fisher until she heard the taunts.

"I was pretty upset," she said.

Before play resumed, the stadium announcer warned the crowd that no hate speech would be allowed during the game.

"I never would've thought that I'd be playing on my own field and would hear something and (wouldn't) feel safe," Fisher said.

Rabbi Richard Prass, whose daughter Ruth is on the Deerfield squad, was in the crowd to cheer her team and heard the announcement. He later learned what prompted it.

"Antisemitism and hate speech has made it to local high school soccer game ... my children's high school!" he said in a Facebook post. "This man who shouted the antisemitic slur which has echoes of Nazi Germany should be condemned."

St. Viator went on to win 1-0.

During the traditional postgame handshake, Deerfield coach Rich Grady told St. Viator coach Byron DeLeon about the nature of the comments that had disrupted the match. In response, DeLeon said he'd look into the matter.

The fan who shouted the comments hasn't been identified.

Anderson praised her school's athletes for speaking up.

"No one should ever face this vile behavior or fear for their safety and security," she said.

The Deerfield athletes are planning a public response to the slurs.

"We all want to do something," Fisher said. "The first step is to have people be aware that these things do happen."

Grady said he's "extremely proud" of his players.

St. Viator returned to Deerfield on Friday for the sectional championship game against Lake Forest.

Ahead of the match, a sign was posted at the entrance to the Deerfield High stadium proclaiming the school doesn't tolerate "antisemitism, racism or any other hateful comments based on race, religion, gender or sexual orientation." Similar signs will be posted at all Deerfield High athletic facilities, Grady said.

Also Friday, Deerfield's stadium announcer read a statement from Athletic Director Nate Flannery denouncing the slurs. A donation to the Anti-Defamation League from Deerfield's athletic department is pending, he said.

St. Viator fell to Lake Forest 1-0.

• Daily Herald correspondent Bill Esbrook contributed to this report.