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Waterloo fans gather to support Charles City athlete
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Waterloo fans gather to support Charles City athlete

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CHARLES CITY — The Charles City baseball team was home for a doubleheader Friday night, the first time since junior centerfielder Jeremiah Chapman faced racial slurs during a game June 27 in Waverly.

The welcome could have not been warmer.

In addition to the Comets’ regular fans, another group gathered at the centerfield fence, bearing signs of encouragement for #4 and wearing shirts with his name.

Jeremiah Fan Club

Corey Muhammad, a coach and employee of the Waterloo School District, was a high school athlete once and remembers well what it meant to be a Black athlete in a mostly white community, and he wanted Chapman to know he wasn’t alone.

He wasn’t. On the Facebook page Black in Waterloo the conversation swirled around finding ways to support the young man. In the end, around 15 people road tripped to Charles City.

“What happened to him was gross. It was unacceptable,” said Muhammad, referring to the slurs to which Chapman was subjected, among them that he should have been George Floyd, the Minneapolis man who was killed by police, that he should “go back to the fields,” and “Colin,” a reference to former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who kneeled during the national anthem to draw attention to racial injustice.

“We’ve all played in places where this has happened,” said Muhammad, the people around him immediately beginning to recite the names of Iowa towns where something similar happened to them.

Waverly-Shell Rock High School put out a statement on their Facebook page saying they “fully acknowledge” the remarks happened.

“This behavior is unacceptable. We make no excuses, because there are none,” the Waverly-Shell Rock post said. “We do, however, wish to make a sincere apology to the Charles City school district and community and, in particular, the young man towards whom these comments were directed.”

The past is the past, according to Muhammad. What was important Friday night was lifting Chapman up. And lift they did, cheering loudly every time he made a play in the field or took a swing at the plate.

Willetta Thomas, Muhammad’s sister, was the artist behind the signs and the creator of the orange T-shirts of the Chapman Fan Club. Muhammad said the coaches of Waterloo Columbus and Waterloo East sent jerseys and hats for Chapman.

“This is not a Black problem,” Muhammad said. “And it shouldn’t only be talked about in public, but in homes, around tables.”

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