Cathedral Catholic faces sanctions for racist photos aimed at Lincoln High athletes

Cathedral Catholic High School played Lincoln High on April 9, the same day racist social media posts were discovered.
Cathedral Catholic High School played Lincoln High on April 9, the same day racist social media posts were discovered. The San Diego City Conference has sanctioned Cathedral Catholic, which includes a probationary period for the team, suspension of the school’s head coach for two games and the implementation of a restorative education program.
(UT File)

Social media posts showed someone wearing a shirt with “Catholics vs. Convicts III” and another showed players from the private school making a gang sign


A governing body for San Diego high school sports has imposed sanctions on Cathedral Catholic High School’s football program in response to players circulating and posting racist photos aimed at Lincoln High School.

The San Diego City Conference completed an investigation into two social media posts on May 14 and placed Cathedral Catholic’s football coach on a two-game suspension. It also placed the team on two years’ probation and ordered Cathedral Catholic to implement a restorative education program.

The conference oversees athletic teams in the San Diego Unified School District and some private schools.

Cathedral Catholic's head varsity football coach, Sean Doyle, right, will be suspended.
Cathedral Catholic’s head varsity football coach, Sean Doyle, right, will be suspended from the first two league contests for the 2021-2022 San Diego City Conference football season.
(UT File)

On the day Cathedral Catholic and Lincoln High played each other in April, players and coaches at Lincoln High learned a player for the private school shared social media posts showing someone wearing a shirt that read “Catholics vs. Convicts III” with the caption “We run the City.”

Another photo showed Cathedral Catholic players making a gang sign with their hands.

The controversy made local and national news, in part because the T shirt slogan harkened to a popular but controversial slogan in the late 1980s that Notre Dame University students coined for a t-shirt amid a fierce football rivalry with the University of Miami. The rivalry culminated in a 1988 game later spotlighted in a 2016 ESPN documentary called “Catholics vs. Convicts.”

Five days after the game with Lincoln, Cathedral Catholic issued an apology for the social media photos.

Lincoln High Principal Stephanie Brown sent a letter to school families Wednesday night, May 19, describing the conference sanctions against Cathedral Catholic.

One photo shows someone wearing a T-shirt that says “Catholics vs. Convicts III,” another shows Cathedral players making a gang sign

April 14, 2021

    The parent letter said the conference supports the “self-suspension” of student athletes who were directly responsible for the photo of the “Catholics vs. Convicts III” shirt. That includes students who wore the shirt on school grounds and those who took photos and uploaded them to social media.
    It’s unclear how many students were suspended. Kevin Eckery, a spokesman for the Diocese of San Diego, said information about student suspensions is not normally shared publicly.

    And a conference official on Thursday, May 20, referred all questions to the school district.

    Cathedral Catholic Principal Kevin Calkins said in a statement that the school accepts the sanctions and the school’s leaders have had multiple conversations with representatives from Lincoln High, the California Interscholastic Federation and the president of the San Diego City Conference.

    “Our students and our school community have learned a lot from this experience, and we look forward to repairing our relationship with the Lincoln High School community,” Calkins said.

    Cathedral Coach Sean Doyle did not respond a request for comment.

    Brown said in the letter that she and Lincoln’s head football coach, David Dunn, were consulted on the matter and feel satisfied with the way the investigation was handled.

    “I am proud of our students and how they responded to the situation,” Brown said in the letter. “We should all take pride in the find young men and women we are raising in our community.”

    Not everyone was happy with the punishment. Jeff Harper-Harris, Lincoln High’s head basketball coach, said he was dissatisfied with the sanctions imposed on Cathedral Catholic, because he believes that if the roles were reversed — if Lincoln High athletes had participated in the negative behavior — the students, as well as the coaches, would have dealt with greater consequences.

    Harper-Harris, who also founded Coaches for Racial Equality, a group of coaches, athletes and parents who meet often to discus racism and social justice, said the Cathedral students’ behavior was unfortunate because the game was an opportunity for positivity after a year of athletics being restricted during the pandemic.

    Cathedral Catholic High is a private school in Carmel Valley that enrolls about 1,600 students. The school charges $20,000 in annual tuition, although 35 percent of its students receive financial aid.

    Lincoln, a San Diego Unified school, is located in southeastern San Diego and enrolls about 1,400 students; 87 percent are from low-income families. About 18 percent of Lincoln students are Black and 71 percent are Hispanic.

    As part of the sanctions, Cathedral Catholic must implement a restorative education program for its athletic program and submit reports to the San Diego City Conference every semester. If it violates its two-year probation, it could be kicked out of the conference, the parent letter said.

    — Andrea Lopez-Villafana is a reporter for The San Diego Union-Tribune