Black Coach Humiliated and Banned from Property
HOUSTON-For the past 12 years Coach Eric King’s committment to St. Pius X High School has been like that of a devoted family member. He has been like a surrogate father to countless students and invested his heart in soul into St. Pius, both as an employee and volunteer. Many of the Black athletes that now attend the Houston Catholic High School enrolled there on King’s insistence, helping the school to strengthen it’s athletic programs and compete on a higher level. Then, earlier this year, it all came crashing down.
It appears that St. Pius loved Coach King as long as he was bringing them “cream of the crop” Black athletes from the Black community. But when King decided to move on with his career he was told that he was no longer welcomed on St. Pius’ property, a religious institution that is supposed to welcome everyone from the president to the poverty-stricken.
No longer employed at St. Pius, King attended a public basketball game in the school gymnasium. He was there to support his nephew who played on the team. After being received with hugs and love by students, parents and faculty he proceeded to his seat. Before he could get comfortable, he was approached by the Dean of Students, Jeff Donaruma, who handed him a letter (written on St. Pius letterhead) banning him from the campus. Donaruma accused King trying to recruit St. Pius athletes to other private schools, a claim that King vehemently denies. According to King, he was then escorted out of the gym by law enforcement, along with his family. King says this hurt him to his core.
In an exclusive interview with the African-American News&Issues, King broke down and expressed how he felt that evening. “Humiliated, embarrassed, frustrated, and ashamed. My character and integrity was viciously attacked and destroyed. My reputation has been negatively questioned and has not only affected me but also my children and family,” said King. “I was very instrumental and highly respected for recruiting a multitude of student athletes and committed parents to join the program but I have now been totally demoralized by the very institution that I sacrificed so much for.”
Coach King was also instrumental in connecting little league football teams to the St. Pius institution. He represented St. Pius as a model school for African-American children looking to get a good private school education and display their athletic talent in the process. St. Pius was the beneficiary because like most predominately White educational institutions Black athletes are necessary for athletic predominance. King says he feels used.
“As long as I was recruiting Black athletes for St. Pius everything was just great. I was committed to help put St. Pius on the map by dedicating my time being a reputable recruiterand coach for the organization. This is all devastating to me, he said.”
Not knowing what else to do, King reached out to Houston-based Activist Deric Muhammad, for advice. He felt his civil rights had been violated and his reputation had been compromised. He wanted some answers. Muhammad tried to secure a meeting with Sister Donna Pollard, the head of the school. He was told that he would have either meet with an underling or wait until June or July. Muhammad says he wonders if high dollar White donors have to wait as long to obtain a meeting.
“St. Pius sits right in the heart of the Black community. It is unfortunate that the head of the school does not render herself available to hear community concerns. Coach King is highly respected and revered in the Black community. His work helps to keep young Black males off the streets and out of the criminal justice system. St. Pius’ disrespect for Eric King is a sign of their disrespect for the Black community. We are all insulted. We will fight this.” said Muhammad.
What’s more confusing is that St. Pius is a Catholic, religious-based, institution. “I was always taught that a religious-based institution leaves its doors open for everyone, from the saint to the sinner,” added Deric Muhammad. “ Eric King broke no laws and committed no crimes, yet was banned from the property. This was not the work of God. This was the work of racism and abuse of authority.” Muhammad says that King’s treatment reminds him of the days of slavery and segregation.
“During segregation Black people were banned from many institutions for superficial reasons. Dr. King and others fought so that people like Eric King could attend a basketball game in peace, without hindrance, harassment or expulsion”, said Muhammad. “If St. Pius were a plantation then Eric King could be considered a “runaway slave.” He’s was publicly punished and humiliated because he chose to move on with his career in a way that St. Pius felt threatened by. Somebody will be held accountable.”
Sources say that White St. Pius employees have committed infractions that pale in comparison to the disproved, minor accusations hurled against King. Yet, none of these employees have been banned from the campus. This calls into question the school’s integrity. Does St. Pius use its Black population to get ahead athletically or do they really care about them? If St. Pius has nothing to hide, why is it so difficult to obtain a meeting with the head of a school that sits in the heart of a Black community? Why is it that the White coaches (former employees) that King was accused of recruiting for are allowed on St. Pius’ campus, yet King is barred. These and other questions will be answered in part two of this EXCLUSIVE story. Make sure to pick up next week’s edition of the African-American News&Issues. This story gets deeper.