The state board that oversees high school athletics has cleared Gene Nabors, Woodrow Wilson High School girls basketball assistant coach, of any suspensions or punishments related to his actions during a game between his team and Greenbrier East on Tuesday night.
Beckley attorney Randolph McGraw, who is defending Nabors on a criminal citation of obstructing an officer during the game at Greenbrier East, confirmed that an investigation by the West Virginia Secondary Schools Activities Commission has cleared Nabors of any wrongdoing.
West Virginia State Police has cited Nabors for obstructing an officer following a contentious game Tuesday night — a charge McGraw said appears unfounded.
A video clip shows a West Virginia State Police officer forcing Nabors to the floor and handcuffing him.
His son, Donte Nabors, was cited for disorderly conduct and obstructing officers. Stephen Damon, a parent of a Greenbrier East player, was also cited for disorderly conduct.
McGraw said he is representing Gene and Donte Nabors and WWHS in the matter.
"They gave them tickets, citations," McGraw said Friday. "They believe they didn't do anything, and the video doesn't show them doing anything.
"The WVSSAC cleared Gene (Nabors) last night."
Additionally, police are investigating a racist and misogynistic call that was left on McGraw's office voice mail, apparently aimed at Lady Flying Eagles.
Gov. Jim Justice is coach of the girls' basketball team at Greenbrier East High School, a school that is 89 percent white and five percent black. He had used the word "thug" when describing the Lady Flying Eagles.
WWHS has a 19 percent black and 72 percent white population. The Lady Flying Eagles are coached by two black men.
After President Barack Obama used the word "thug" to describe looters during the Baltimore riots in 2015, many language experts criticized his choice of the word.
John McWhorter, an associate professor of English and comparative literature at Columbia University, told NPR in 2015 that "thug" is a "nominally polite way of using the n-word."
Since Tuesday night, Justice has repeatedly told media outlets that he did not have any racist intent when he used the word "thug." He said he had meant to communicate that the WWHS team was behaving in a violent way toward his players.
Justice has said that he was not making any reference to race when he used the word. Legislators have called on him to apologize, and the president of the Raleigh County chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Barbara Charles, has asked him to host a meeting with the two teams to listen to students' concerns and to promote healing.
McGraw told The Washington Post on Friday that in southern West Virginia, the word "thug" is the modern way of saying "n****r."
"Thug, that's the modern-day term for the n-word, at least, around here, it is," McGraw was quoted.
He said Friday his office was bombarded by "ugly" messages, within hours of The Washington Post posting the article to its website.
One phone message, from a man, delivered a message of misogyny and racism against the Lady Flying Eagles. McGraw said he has notified the Raleigh County Prosecuting Attorney's Office of the call and that police are investigating.
The statewide fracas started during a heated game between Woodrow Wilson and Greenbrier East on Tuesday night.
After rough play on both sides, a timeout was called and Woodrow assistant coach Gene Nabors, head coach Brian Nabors’ younger brother, approached Woodrow administrators Rocky Powell (principal) and J.T. Payne (athletic director) to address the issue of a fan, identified later as Greenbrier East parent Stephen Damon, who had been antagonizing him. It’s unclear what Gene Nabors said to Damon, but photo and video evidence supports the fact Nabors did his best to diffuse the situation, as confirmed by a surveillance video obtained by the WVSSAC.
As Nabors was handcuffed, Woodrow Wilson assistant Kevin “Radar” Henry decided to help move the team to another corner of the gym and just outside the door to avoid the scene of Nabors being detained. Justice applauded as Woodrow left the floor but did a good job of making sure his players and staff stayed on their side of the gym and out of the altercation.
When the players returned to the court and the officials, coaches and administration huddled to decide what to do, Justice campaigned for the game to be called a forfeit, repeatedly noting the Woodrow team had left the floor. After nearly 10 minutes of discussion, officials elected to suspend the game, notifying the WVSSAC.
In an interview with The Register-Herald following suspension of the game, Justice called the Woodrow team "a bunch of thugs."
“I hate to say it any other way, but honest to God’s truth is the same thing happened over at Woodrow two different times out of the Woodrow players,” Justice said. “They’re a bunch of thugs. The whole team left the bench, the coach is in a fight, they walked off the floor, they called the game.
“The game was over when they walked off the floor — it’s just as simple as that. They don’t know how to behave and at the end of the day, you got what you got.”
The fallout from Tuesday's altercation at Greenbrier East resulted in the WVSSAC, the state's high school sports governing body, suspending five Woodrow Wilson girls basketball players for two games.
The players were later identified by The Register-Herald as all-state seniors Victoria Staunton and Liz Cadle, starting center Jamara Walton, and reserves Sierra Conley and Olivia Ziolkowski.
The girls were suspended for leaving the bench, which is against game rules.
There were two separate instances of the Woodrow players leaving the bench area. The first was when assistant coach Gene Nabors was detained and handcuffed by law enforcement during a timeout and the second was when the coaches removed the players from the floor for their safety and consideration.
Woodrow Wilson principal Powell clarified Thursday night when speaking to The Register-Herald that the players left the bench area with no malice, and the suspension itself stems from when they left while Nabors was detained.