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Posted under: News

West Virginia Governor Refuses To Apologize For Calling High School Basketball Team A 'Bunch Of Thugs'

Justice refuses to apologize, saying the remark wasn't racially motivated.

West Virginia's Republican governor and high school girl's basketball coach, Jim Justice, called a rival team a “bunch of thugs” and is refusing to apologize.

The game, held on Tuesday, was a match-up between Justice’s Greenbrier East High School, a predominantly white team, and Woodrow Wilson High School, one of the more diverse schools in West Virginia, according to the Register-Herald. Woodrow Wilson is also coached by two Black men.

The game became heated early on when a Woodrow Wilson player was elbowed in the face and had some choice words for her opponent.

The game was later delayed and then suspended when the opposing head coach, Brian Nabors removed his team from the floor after an incident ensued between his assistant coach, Gene Nabors, and a fan.

Justice praised his team for not being involved.

“I hate to say it any other way, but you saw what happened over at Woodrow. Two different times out of the Woodrow players. They’re a bunch of thugs,” Justice said when asked about what was going on. “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.”

Brian Nabors had no comment on the commotion.

“We only came here to play basketball,” he said.

Justice is now facing backlash for hurling a racially insensitive comment at the Woodrow Wilson team, including criticism from lawmakers.

“We need to start thinking about what we’re saying,” said Delegate Sean Hornbuckle, one of the few Black members of the state’s House. “I like Jim. I would never say that he is racist. But he needs to think before he speaks, be educated. This is another one of those teachable moments, unfortunately. But I wanted to make sure people thought about the implications of what was said.”

Justice’s challenger for office, Woody Thrasher said Justice's actions are not the behavior of a governor.

“The governor, I think should apologize, when you mess up you need to apologize,” Thrasher said. ”I think that’s the right thing for him to do, not to justify his actions.”

Instead of apologizing, Justice doubled down on his sentiments.

"My definition of a thug is clear. It means violence, bullying, and disorderly conduct. And we, as West Virginians, should have zero tolerance for this kind of behavior. Anyone that would accuse me of making a racial slur is totally absurd,” Justice said in a statement Wednesday according to WLOS.

When asked if he understood the gravity of his words, Justice said there was no racial sentiment in his use of “thugs.”

“That wouldn’t never even enter my mind. I teach my kids the right stuff,” he said. “Listen, my team wasn’t even involved in any of this. My team was at the other end of the court when all of this was going on. They were the ones doing all of this stuff.”

The 68-year-old condemned Brian Nabors and Gene Nabors for their behavior.

“It’s ridiculous that high school kids and high school coaches, my God, even the coach was in a fight,” Justice said. “I mean, are you kidding me? What’s he supposed to be doing other than setting an example for the kids, ya know?”

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Miami native, recent Ithaca College grad, lover of Cuban food.