Massachusetts State Sen. Barry Finegold, a former college football player who practices Judaism, is offering to explain why anti-Semitic language is offensive to the Duxbury football team amid an ongoing play-call scandal.
"I have heard a lot of line-of-scrimmage audibles, but I never heard anyone use 'Auschwitz' before," Finegold wrote in an open letter to the team. "I thought it might be productive to have an open conversation about the meaning of Auschwitz and why it was painful to hear that your team used Holocaust-related terminology on the field."
The team used terms like "Auschwitz" while calling plays against Plymouth North High School last month, according to the Anti-Defamation League's New England chapter.
An investigation has been underway since last week, when Duxbury school officials announced that the team had incorporated "offensive language" into its play-call system for adjusting plays on the field. In the days since, officials have confirmed that the language was anti-Semitic, fired the head coach and canceled an upcoming game.
Finegold, who played football for Andover High School and Franklin and Marshall College, described the difficulties in explaining to his coach that he couldn’t play against Georgetown University because the game was on the Jewish holy day of Yom Kippur.
"My faith called on me to go to synagogue and fast instead," Finegold wrote. "Football has played an incredible role in my life and helped me become who I am today. I want that same continued opportunity for you as well. I’m not looking to villainize you; instead, I think this moment could be an important learning experience."
Finegold referenced a 2020 survey that found 35% of Massachusetts residents under the age of 40 were unsure about what Auschwitz was.
In a series of tweets Wednesday, Senate President Karen Spilka called for accountability in what she described as "appalling" language. Spilka shared some of her own family's history and the loss of loved ones at that very concentration camp during the Holocaust.
But Spilka urged that the incident needs to be "more than just a 'teachable moment.'" The senate president is calling for accountability and the passage of a bill, titled "An Act Advancing and Promoting Genocide Education." The legislation would educate middle and high school students on the history of genocide and promote the teaching of human rights, according to Spilka.
"We must all do the work to confront bigotry and stand up to hate," Spilka said.
NBC10 Boston had reached out to the former head football coach, David Maimaron, for comment before the announcement that the school district had "severed ties" with him was issued Wednesday. On Monday, he issued a statement calling the language used March 12 "inexcusable."
Edward R. Mitnick of Just Training Solutions, LLC, has been brought in to investigate the allegations as well, school officials said Wednesday. The district is also working with the Anti-Defamation League on how it responds in the near- and long-terms, officials said in a message to members of the community.
The district said a decision about future games will be made at a later date. High school football is being played in the spring this year in Massachusetts after the fall season was pushed back because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Duxbury school officials didn't initially characterize the language beyond that it had religious connotations in their announcement Monday.