Johnston-Pilgrim hoops shut down after social media exchange

Posted 2/1/22

The Pilgrim and Johnston High School boys basketball teams were set to square off for an evening match in Warwick on Tuesday, but that afternoon, the game was postponed due to …

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Johnston-Pilgrim hoops shut down after social media exchange


The Pilgrim and Johnston High School boys basketball teams were set to square off for an evening match in Warwick on Tuesday, but that afternoon, the game was postponed due to malicious interactions between the student bodies that surfaced on social media.
The incident began when Johnston students began making disparaging comments regarding former Pilgrim principal Gerry Habershaw, who passed away in November of a heart attack following a battle with COVID-19.
Students from Pilgrim took notice and began exchanging messages with those from Johnston. Once the interactions threatened potential violence at the scheduled event, Johnston Superintendent Dr. Bernard DiLullo sent out an email expressing his decision to postpone the game until further notice.
“Unfortunately, we have learned that a few of our students had planned on attending the game with the intention of harassing the Pilgrim community. Recently, that school lost its longtime and much beloved Principal to the COVID virus. Some of our students have posted very negative images of that principal which has caused outrage in the Pilgrim community,” the email read. “Our understanding of the plan for tonight’s game was for students to wear black to mock the funeral of this individual. To maintain the safety of all, this game was postponed to a later date.”
The email later urged parents to speak with their children regarding their behavior, and stated that students may be prohibited from attending away events in the future.
Tuesday’s events followed another situation that occurred prior to the team’s game against Cranston West on Jan. 14. It was reported that members of the Johnston student section were preparing to heckle the West coaching staff by using poster boards that displayed images of their family members during the game. The West program issued a complaint in the days leading up to the event and the apparent plans dissolved.
No members of the Johnston team were involved in the exchanges on Tuesday, and coach Mike Bedrosian apologized on behalf of his club.
“It doesn’t represent the culture of our basketball team. (Pilgrim) has every right to be disgusted, and we apologize to the Warwick and Pilgrim community for the things that were said. In no way, shape or form does it represent our team,” Bedrosian said.
Bedrosian added that he intends on personally apologizing to the Pilgrim administration and athletics department, and hopes that his players are not impacted by this situation.
“We have a good bunch of kids in our program, and they are taking the brunt of this. I hope that people understand that although it was our students, it was not our players that put that stuff online. We don’t want to have a target on our backs for the remainder of our away games, we don’t want our team to have a bad rep because of what members of the student body put online,” Bedrosian said. “If it was (our players), they would be off the team. Hopefully the school does its job and reprimands the people responsible.”
Former varsity head coach and current assistant, Mark Livingston, echoed Bedrosian’s sentiments on Twitter as well.
“We as a program do not condone this type of behavior. Our administration, coaches, players and parents are disgusted by these actions. This does not, by any means, represent the young men and culture on the Johnston High school boys basketball team,” Livingston said.
A makeup date has not been established, but sources say that the schools are eyeing a potential Feb. 11 meeting at Pilgrim. It has not been decided whether or not fans will be allowed in attendance.


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