How a Junior High Basketball Team Is Protesting an NJ Mayor's Racist Comments

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For weeks, the mayor of a New Jersey town has faced deep criticism over secret recordings that captured him using racial slurs. As calls for racial equality in the Union County community continue to grow louder, the latest actions come from a surprising source: a youth basketball team from a rival town.

Former Gov. Richard Codey has been coaching youth basketball for nearly 25 years, passing the ball to some big names, including Kyrie Irving and other professional players. Codey, who was governor of the state from 2004-2006, is now an outspoken state senator.

So when the racist massacre in Buffalo rocked the country, Codey wanted to make sure the voices of his young, diverse players at Roosevelt Middle School in West Orange were heard.

"Doesn’t matter what skin color you are, we should all be able to feel safe," said player Aaron Morrison.

The 7th grade West Orange Knights boys basketball team will all be wearing T-shirts with the words “end racism” and “equality” during a tournament in Clark on Saturday. It is being done to send a message to Clark Mayor Sal Bonaccorso, who was heard on leaked audio recordings using racist language against the Black community and sexist comments about female police officers.

"What the mayor said was not right at all," said Morrison. His father shared the sentiment.

"It's super critical that children understand what’s appropriate, what’s inappropriate," Mark Morrison said.

"When we see a mayor in a town in New Jersey is on tape using the N-word over and over and over but will not resign, that’s wrong," said Codey. "It's time to say: Clark, get rid of him."

Bonaccorso has since apologized, but has not heeded calls to resign.

"It’s a life lesson and hopefully they will remember," said Codey. "So if they’re ever faced with it again, they can handle it the right way."

Codey said he's not sure if wearing the shirts on Saturday will be a one-time thing, or if the team will wear the shirts at other games. 

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