Man experiences racism on high school basketball team, 56 years later a former teammate apologizes

August 8, 2017 2:21 pm Last Updated: August 8, 2017 2:21 pm


In 1961, the Newport High School boys’ basketball team traveled from Newport, Kentucky to Atlanta, Georgia to play in a tournament. However, not all members of the team traveled to Georgia. Eugene Britton Carter and a few of his teammates did not make the trip simply because they were black. Reportedly one of the other coaches with a team in the tournament suggested they would be unwelcome due to their race.

Fifty-six years later Carter received a letter in the mail offering an apology for how he and his teammates were treated.

“I was kind of shocked when I read it because I hadn’t seen or heard from Tom since 1961, and then he wrote me a letter apologizing to me for something I almost forgot about,” Carter told Fox 59.

In 1961 a high school basketball team traveled to a tournament without all of their players because of racism.

Tom Owens, who sent the letter to Carter, wrote that for the past 56 years he thought of the time the team left Carter and their other teammates behind. Owens admitted in the letter that he knew even if the team only left one player behind it was still the wrong thing to do.

“I wish I had the courage and intestinal fortitude to stand up to my parents, coach, school administrators to say ‘I’m not going. We all go, or nobody goes,'” he wrote.

Although it happened 56 years ago, Owens never stopped thinking about how his team contributed to bigotry and hate.

Carter said that when his team came back from the tournament in 1961 he had no idea what his teammates’ opinions were on the matter. He commented that once they came back, the team carried on as if nothing ever happened.

Owens said it wasn’t until he graduated from high school and “started maturing a bit” that he realized how he and his teammates reacted to another coach uninviting some of his teammates to a basketball tournament was not acceptable. His choice to do nothing weighed on him for over 50 years.

Upon receiving the letter, Carter contacted Owens and accepted his apology. The two have since kept in contact and plan to meet up one day soon.

Although many online suggest that Owens’ apology is too little, too late, Carter said, “It took a lot of heart for him to do that after all these years.”

“Get along. We are all one,” he added. “Treat everybody the way you want to be treated.”