A viral video which appears to show a fan mocking a basketball player who lives with epilepsy as he heads to the free throw line sparked controversy and a response from the schools involved.
The video is from a Friday night basketball game in Indiana between Center Grove and Cathedral
The clip posted to Twitter shows a student in the Center Grove High School cheering section taunting Cathedral senior James Franklin Jr., who has epilepsy, as Franklin goes to the free throw line.
The video depicts the student dropping to the floor and shaking, in what appears to be an imitation of a seizure.
Our sister station WISH is not identifying the student who appears to mock James in the video. The original tweet that contains the video was deleted sometime late Friday or early Saturday.
On Saturday, James spoke with WISH. He explained he has had multiple seizures since eighth grade because of his epilepsy. He had brain surgery last August to treat his condition.
“It didn’t hit me at first,” said James. “Like last night it didn’t hit me. But this morning, I woke up and was thinking hard and had a lot on my mind and started crying a lot. I cried.”
WISH spoke with James and his mother, Tamieka Franklin, ahead of Cathedral’s game against Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School Saturday night.
“He said, ‘Mom, they were yelling, “Have another seizure for me; have a seizure for me,” during the game,'” said Tamieka.
Tamieka says the student seen in the video apologized to James’ father after the game, but she said the apology did not seem sincere.
“One of the parents had gone and gotten the kid and was like ‘Hey, that was not acceptable, this is this man’s son, and do you know what he’s been through?’ The kid was like ‘Oh yeah, I’m sorry,'” said Tamieka.
“I mean how can you be sincere when you obviously went through social media and took the time to research our players?” Tamieka said.
Tamieka told WISH the taunting from Center Grove didn’t start with her son.
“They did their research,” said Tameka. “The free throw before, they had taken a picture of one of our players and pasted a picture of his mother on (the Center Grove fan’s) belly and took his shirt off when he was shooting free throws. When I saw the first thing with the mother on the stomach, I thought ‘Wow, they really kind of cut really deep.’ It was way past the line when they did that. Then when I saw the guy flop on the ground, I tried to give him the benefit of the doubt. But when you go away from the players and you start attacking their character and their disabilities, that’s way past the line.”
Less than 24 hours after the video went viral, James said the pain is still fresh in his mind, and he hopes the student in the video realizes the hurt he has caused.
“I’m pretty sure right now he’s probably sitting in his room in the dark thinking, realizing that he did something bad,” said James. “I’m still really down about this.”
Center Grove released this statement Saturday evening saying:
“We are working collaboratively with the administrative staff and athletic department at Cathedral to address these issues. Our goal is to always create an environment where sportsmanship and quality competition can thrive. We do not condone any behavior intended to mock, disparage or humiliate any player or student.”
Tamieka told WISH that Center Grove is not doing enough to remedy the situation.
“This is something that’s been going on,” said Tamieka. “If you were on social media and saw all the negative feedback that was toward Center Grove – this is an underlying problem with them. This is something that’s not new. It’s been displayed in the past and has not been dealt with.”
As messages for James pour in from across the country, both James and his mother are asking for awareness about his disorder.
“Read his story,” said Tamieka. “Know what he’s been through, know what kids his age and adults go through every day living life with epilepsy and battling this disease. We want to bring awareness to this.”
“Whoever has epilepsy, don’t let anybody bring you down,” said James. “Even if it’s very hard, just try to keep fighting and rely on God to do the work and don’t let anything discourage you from what you want to do and just do things through Christ.”
It was not known on Saturday whether the student in the video would face any repercussions.