‘Making a stand for equality’: Lincoln High football coach defends canceling Cathedral Catholic showdown

 Abraham Lincoln High School in San Diego
(Brittany Cruz-Fejeran/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Lincoln coach David Dunn said not enough had been done to make up for April incident involving ‘Catholics vs. Convicts III’ T-shirt


Lincoln High football coach David Dunn spoke at a virtual “Coaches for Racial Equality” meeting Wednesday night, delving deeper into the reasons he and school administrators decided to cancel the No. 5-ranked Hornets’ game that had been scheduled for Friday against No. 2 Cathedral Catholic.

“We’re tired of being treated unfairly, (unjustly), and just thinking that it’s going to be OK,” Dunn said. “We’re making a stand for equality.”

Lincoln announced the cancelation in a statement Tuesday, in response to an April incident in which a Cathedral Catholic player 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 is a private school in Carmel Valley that charges $20,000 in annual tuition, although 35 percent of its students receive financial aid. Lincoln, a San Diego Unified school located in southeastern San Diego, enrolls about 1,400 students, of which 87 percent are from low-income families. About 18 percent of its students are Black and 71 percent are Latino.

Lincoln students were also subjected to racial taunts and slurs in 2019 at a football game in San Clemente.

The statement released Tuesday, attributed to Dunn but also signed by school and athletic administrators, said “Cathedral Catholic demonstrated their inhumane attitudes against us, by referring to us as convicts and thugs ... Privilege should never supersede equality and privilege should never yield unending platforms to profile us, discriminate against us, and harm us.”

Wednesday night’s Zoom forum was part of a bi-weekly group of high school coaches, athletes, parents and others who meet to discuss racial justice issues. At least three attendees in the meeting identified themselves as Black fathers of current or former Cathedral Catholic football players.

One of them, during a small-group breakout session focused on discussing solutions to the issue, suggested that the two schools’ coaching staffs should trade places for a day.

Another strongly defended Cathedral Catholic’s entire football coaching staff, including head coach Sean Doyle, who was suspended for two games this season following an investigation of April’s incident.

Doyle did not speak during the online meeting Wednesday and it was unclear if he attended. On Tuesday Doyle said that he has a great relationship with Dunn.

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

Dunn said Wednesday night that “you can’t put a timeline on healing,” noting it had been only six months since the incident, which occurred on a game day between the two football teams, during the COVID-delayed spring season.

He also revealed more details about the thought process that went into calling off the game. Dunn said that leading up to the highly anticipated showdown, which was scheduled to be played Friday night on Lincoln’s campus in the Lincoln Park neighborhood, there were discussions about hiring extra security.

“How does that look?” Dunn asked rhetorically. “It feeds into the profiling.”

He said he also heard about community members possibly planning to attend the game in T-shirts with messages that could be offensive to Cathedral Catholic. He said that critics would point to the apparent retaliation and say “that’s what you expect from Lincoln.”

Dunn said the decision to cancel the game — which will be counted as a forfeit loss for Lincoln, dropping its record to 6-3 — was “right for what we’re building with our team and our community.”

He said racism can no longer be swept under the rug or accepted as normal.

“I will never put my kids, my school or my team in a situation where I’m embarrassing them,” Dunn said.