[Editor's note: See June 6th update at very bottom of this article. Title of this article was updated in connection with the update.]
Original article - April 25th, 2018:
Before we get going here, go ahead and strap in. Let's establish a few parameters here. Venice and Braden River are Class 7A high schools in Florida -- the state's second largest classification -- located roughly 30 miles apart on the state's southwestern gulf coast, in between Tampa and Fort Myers. Braden River is coached by Curt Bradley, and Venice by John Peacock.
Theirs are two of the most successful programs in the state: Venice is 84-18 this decade with three district championships, two regional titles and a Class 7A state championship in 2017. Braden River is 42-6 over the past four seasons with one district and regional championship apiece. Both programs have also been disciplined by the FHSAA in recent years; Peacock was fined and banned from coaching spring practice last year after Venice players improperly contacted a player from an opposing team through Snapchat, and Braden River was sanctioned and fined this year for holding illegal practices. Peacock has admitted to turning Braden River in to the authorities.
One more point, and this is crucial: Bradley, the Braden River coach, is multi-racial.
This is Bradley.
And this is Peacock.
Got all that?
All that established and seatbelts firmly secure, this story is about to dive head-first into the realm of the bizarre.
Last week, former Venice football player Drue Streich tweeted an image of a Nivea self-tanning lotion bottle and tagged Bradley in said tweet. "Is this what you use @Cbradley2218," he wrote. Peacock, the Venice head coach, liked the tweet. A screenshot is provided below by the Sarasota Herald-Tribune.
Bradley became aware of the tweet and on Friday sent Peacock the following letter, while CC'ing the principals of both schools, school board members and "other school officials," according to the Herald-Tribune.
As a fellow educator and football coach, I feel it necessary to address some deep concerns that live within your program and within how you shape our young adults of tomorrow. I am all for healthy rivalry and competition, however, as educators and adults who are very influential in the development of young minds, we must be extremely careful to not cross lines.
Encouraging racial jokes and racism among your players, and acknowledging them to be appropriate by publicly or privately “liking” them, is definitely a line in which someone in your position should not tread. Your locker-room comments of “how Coach Bradley uses spray tan to obtain his skin color” had come to my attention a while ago. Although this has been a running joke of yours for some time, it concerns me to see your players use your words on social media, and then you “liking” their post. In case you are unsure as to the tweet I am referring to, please see the attached screen shots of your twitter feed below from the evening of Tuesday 4/17/18.
Because you are so curious, I come from a multi-racial background and am extremely proud of this. My grandparents were on the front line of the Civil Rights Movement. Sadly, they, as well as my parents, lived through many injustices dealt to them from ignorance. I am proud that as a nation we have made great progress in terms of prejudice and intolerance to those different than us, nevertheless I feel it my duty to not remain silent when someone tries to make light of this.
As educators we ethically have a responsibility to first and foremost teach children acceptance, of all people. We also have to acknowledge when we are wrong. I take full responsibility for things I did incorrectly, and by no means is this being addressed due to recent actions. Although we may inevitably disagree as to the appropriate and professional way to handle things, I think we can all agree to the code of ethics that we vow to as educators. In the end, if this email and awareness makes you a better coach and educator, then I have done my job reaching out and helping as many kids as I can. I do hope you ask yourself “when exactly have I taken the sport of football and winning too far?”
It is my understanding that you had been instructed to remove these tweets days ago. While thankfully those have been deleted from social media, it is disturbing to know they will never be erased from the minds of your players and those who read your social media.
Best wishes for your spring season,
Braden River High School
Physical Education Teacher
Head Football Coach
Peacock was fired as Venice's head coach on Wednesday, and within an hour released a statement blasting Bradley, saying he was "appalled" Bradley would "attempt to exploit today's racial tension to distract from the disgrace he has brought to his program."
The statement in full is below, and note that Peacock was fired from a school after liking an allegedly racist tweet -- and the school that fired him is nicknamed the Indians.
I “liked” a tweet that one of my players put on social media about Braden River Head Coach Curt Bradley and a spray tan bottle. I thought this to be a joke about him using spray tan, I had no clue he was multi–racial. I did not come out publicly to defend myself when this occurred because I was asked not to. Nothing was intended to be racist.
I’m appalled at Coach Bradley desperate attempt to exploit today’s racial tension to distract from the disgrace he has brought to his program. This has happened because I was the coach that finally stood up and exposed Coach Bradley for cheating in order to protect the integrity of high school football. I knew this could be an outcome of that decision, and I was willing to accept that. As sad and unfortunate as it is, it was the right thing to do and I would do it again.
I would like to thank all the past and current players, coaches, parents and proud supporters of Venice High Football. Venice HS administration will find a solid replacement for this position, as Venice is one of the premier programs in the state of Florida. Once again, thank you to everyone who has been involved. I will always be an Indian!
As a third-party to this story, I have no comment here except to note that it is not possible to find a high school football story that sums up the current social climate quite like this one.
June 6th Update> John Peacock has been reinstated as head coach at Venice reports Doug Fernandes who has closely followed this story. Will update as more is available.