The rhetoric on the campaign trail has gone from heated to blistering, leaving Dr. Ben Carson calling for a meeting to tone it down and Sen. Ted Cruz worrying during his televised Super Tuesday speech about young children repeating Donald Trump's words.
And in this environment, high school students have begun using Trump's mere name and visage at sporting events to mock rival Hispanic athletes and supporters.
In one such incident in northwest Indiana last week, Trump's face was used by a group of "super fan" students at a predominantly white Catholic high school in northwest Indiana to taunt students at a rival Catholic school that is mostly Latino. The white students also chanted, "Build a wall!", referencing Trump's campaign pledge to build a wall on the border with Mexico.
The game between Andrean High School and Bishop Noll Institute, both near Gary, Indiana, took place last Friday night. The Andrean students were dressed in red, white, and blue attire and American flag prints. One held up a large paper cutout of Trump's face.
In response to the "build a wall" chant, local reports said some Bishop Noll students chanted back with — "You're a racist," which prompted replies of, "You're a token," a reference to the phrase token minority.
Video of the incident surfaced over the weekend. Officials at both schools released a statement on Monday saying they planned to investigate.
Ashley Howard, a high school volleyball coach who was at the game to root for a younger cousin playing for Bishop Noll, recorded the chanting and posted it to Facebook, where it went viral.
In her post, she called out school officials at Andrean for not more quickly responding to the chants or confiscating signs. One of the student placards said "ESPN Deportes," a reference to the Spanish-language ESPN network, but also to the word "deport." Howard told VICE News on Tuesday that she's been flooded with messages both criticizing and supporting her.
"They do get rowdy and passionate and all those things, it's a sporting event," Howard said. "But I think it gets out of hand when it goes from 'We're better than you at basketball,' and it goes to 'Build a wall, no comprende,' you know. That has nothing to do with anything except race."
The incident in Indiana is the second since last week involving white students yelling "Trump!" at basketball opponents from a more diverse campus. On February 22 outside Des Moines, Iowa, students from Dallas Center-Grimes Community High School chanted the candidate's name at students from Perry High School during a basketball match.
Dallas Center-Grimes student leaders later apologized to their counterparts at Perry. A Perry student noted that it was the fourth time the largely Latino high school's boys hoops team has been subjected to the Trump chant this season.
"I urge that you stay alert to chants like 'Trump' or 'Mini-Mexico' and that you please take action," Perry student Kevin Lopez wrote in a letter to his school paper. "We know racism is alive and well, but we refuse to undergo discrimination at Iowa high school athletic events."
On June 16, 2015, while launching his campaign for the White House, Trump claimed Mexico "sends" rapists and criminals to the United States. The comments sparked immediate public outcry across North and South America, as well as a tense legal and business battle with US media giant Univision, the nation's largest Spanish-language broadcaster. Trump's proposal to build a wall on the border with Mexico was recently deemed "racist and ignorant" by Mexico's foreign minister, and trade experts on both sides of the border have argued the plan would be impossible to carry out.
The high schools in Indiana said members of both school communities met on Sunday. The schools did not return calls seeking further comment.
"It shouldn't have happened," Bishop Knoll junior Imari Beasley told CBS Chicago. "But we did receive an apology from the Andrean principal, so hopefully we can learn to forgive and forget, and make sure it never happens again."
Howard has remained adamant that the use of Trump's image and ideas have no place at high school athletic contests.
"This is an election year and it's Super Tuesday now, and we have a presidential candidate who recites hate speech and racism and it's all over the place now," she said. "Kids are savvy with the Internet, so they can easily pick up this hate speech and racism from someone who unfortunately is almost gonna be our next president."
Trump campaign spokeswoman Hope Hicks did not return a call or emails seeking comment on the incidents.
Follow Daniel Hernandez on Twitter: @longdrivesouth
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