Lincoln High cancels football game against Cathedral Catholic in response to racial incident from April

Cathedral Catholic High defeated Lincoln in a football game in April.
Cathedral Catholic High defeated Lincoln in a football game in April. The two schools are scheduled to play Friday but Lincoln canceled the game.
(Josh DaFoe)

Statement from coach, administrators acknowledges Cathedral Catholic’s effort to connect with Lincoln but says more needed


Friday’s highly anticipated football game between No. 2-ranked Cathedral Catholic and No. 5 Lincoln will not be played after Lincoln opted to skip the contest in protest over a racial incident between the high schools in April.

David Dunn, Lincoln’s head coach, said in a statement released Tuesday that his team was “targeted … with an open display of racial profiling by Cathedral Catholic’s football team.

“… A concern shared by many members of our community urged that shielding our student athletes from further abuse and discrimination is the only course of action. Many others also provided statements and gestures in support. Collectively, we agreed to show our student-athletes how special they are to us and how worthy they are of dignity and respect.

“By doing so, we also maintained the firm consensus, not to play in the upcoming (game) with Cathedral Catholic.”

The statement also was signed by co-Principals Melissa Agudelo and Stephanie Brown, Vice Principal for Athletics Launa Romanowsky and Athletic Director David Fai. Those four released a separate statement supporting Dunn’s decision.

In an interview with the Union-Tribune, Dunn said playing right now “is not the right thing to do because the community is in an uproar.”

Before the teams played in April, a player for Cathedral Catholic shared social media posts showing someone wearing a shirt that read “Catholics vs. Convicts III” (a reference to past Notre Dame-Miami football games) with the caption “We run the City.”

Another photo showed Cathedral Catholic players making what appeared to be a gang sign with their hands.

Cathedral Catholic, which won 41-0, apologized for the incident and an unspecified number of players were suspended. The San Diego City Conference, which oversees teams in the San Diego Unified School District and some private schools, conducted an investigation and suspended head coach Sean Doyle for two games, placed the team on two years’ probation and ordered Cathedral Catholic to implement a restorative education program.

Everyone involved in athletics at Cathedral — coaches, players, volunteers and parents — was required to take a seven-hour “similarity training” course from The Third Option City conducted by Miles McPherson, pastor of the Rock Church.

At a recent California Interscholastic Federation symposium, McPherson and Michael Brunker, retired executive director of the Jackie Robinson YMCA, said Cathedral was to be applauded for its efforts after the incident.

“The lesson here is you must be responsible for your actions and the impact those decisions have on others,” Brunker said Tuesday. “Not playing this game is an unwelcome reality of actions that were taken.

“The administrative support Coach Dunn has received from his administration shows that this is bigger than football.

“This has really affected him, the players and the Lincoln community.”

Dunn’s statement said “we acknowledge members of the Cathedral community have made the effort to connect with our coaches and faculty. However, more deliberate intentional efforts to combat racism are warranted.”

At the time the sanctions were announced, Brown and Dunn said they were consulted and satisfied with the way the investigation was handled. On Tuesday, Dunn told the Union-Tribune that was true but he wasn’t satisfied with the penalties.

“What are the consequences? That’s the problem,” he said.

“What I would want to happen is something we all want to happen in this world. Can we treat each other fairly? Can we not profile one team versus another, one race versus another, one community versus another?

“Can we just play the game without extra nonsense? When we are perceived to be angry and retaliatory that puts an extra target on us in so many ways. Now, I’m making a peaceful protest because my kids aren’t treated fairly.

“And yet, all everyone seems to see is, ‘Oh, you’re not playing the game.’ It’s so much bigger than the game. I welcome anybody to walk in my shoes. Let them understand they’re size 15 double wide.”

Francine Maxwell, president of the NAACP San Diego Branch, expressed disappointment this summer that the sanctions against Cathedral were “inadequate and clearly inequitable.”

Maxwell was not available for comment Tuesday but “stands in full support of Coach Dunn,” a spokesperson said.

Dunn said there were efforts made by Cathedral to have a meeting.

“But the scale was not OK with me,” he said. “It wasn’t genuine.”

Dunn said one offer was for Cathedral captains to meet with Lincoln captains at a mutual location.

“Get out of here with that,” said Dunn. “You didn’t offend my four captains. You offended a whole community.

“… I’m peacefully protesting. It has nothing to do with the game itself. It’s bigger than football.”

Dunn emphasized “there’s no personal issue between” him and Doyle and that he respects the longtime Cathedral coach.

Said Doyle: “David Dunn and I have a great relationship. If he deems this the best thing for his program, who am I to question that?

“I hope people respect his decision. I hope I’d get the same respect if I had to make that decision.

“This isn’t a case of they’re wrong or we’re wrong. I’m not in his shoes, and we’re all trying to do what’s best for our programs.

“What’s really sad is that it’s 2021 and we’re still talking about racial equality.”

On the football side, Cathedral Catholic, which will move to 8-2 with the forfeit win, is ranked No. 15 in the state and is the No. 3 seed in the four-team Open Division Playoff Power Rankings.

Lincoln, which will move to 6-3 after Friday, is seeded third in the 12-team Division I playoffs.

The playoffs will be seeded Saturday morning.

There is a minimum nine-game requirement and Lincoln will have only played eight games. A Sept. 10 game with Mira Mesa was canceled because of COVID-19 on the Mira Mesa team, and that game was declared a “no contest.”

San Diego Section Commissioner Joe Heinz, who will not issue an official statement until Wednesday, has said this season’s playoff pairings will use the Power Rankings, but there will be a common-sense factor when the playoff committee meets Saturday.

— Staff writer Kristen Taketa contributed to this report.


5:15 a.m. Oct. 27, 2021: This article was updated with further reporting.

5:15 a.m. Oct. 27, 2021: This article was updated with further reporting including an interview with Lincoln coach David Dunn.