Supporters of former Beachwood High School head football coach Damion Creel have taken to the streets, literally.
About 10 supporters gathered on the corner of Richmond Road and Fairmount Boulevard on May 10 at about noon to voice support for Creel.
Beachwood schools Superintendent Robert P. Hardis, Athletic Director Ryan Peters and Beachwood High School Principal Tony Srithai announced Creel would not be re-hired in an email sent to football players and their families on March 18.
The supporters, who said they were not students or family members of Creel, held signs reading “Coach Creel Did Nothing Wrong” and “Honk for Justice,” among other messages. Many of the signs had the names of the members of the Beachwood Board of Education, imploring them to “do the right thing” and “save Coach Creel.”
The supporters also chanted “Get Coach Creel out of this mess/do the right thing, there’s no evidence” at cars as they passed by the corner. They had fliers to hand out to pedestrians with a summary of their version of the situation with a breakdown of facts, including “If there is indeed racially blind justice in Beachwood, Coach Creel will be allowed to remain working tirelessly on behalf of his players and the Beachwood community.”
“We feel (the situation) is kind of racially motivated and racially charged,” Shamelle Salahuddin said. “Basically, there is no evidence of any wrongdoing whatsoever.”
Other supporters indicated Salahuddin was the organizer of the protest. Salahuddin, who identified herself only as “an activist,” did not say if she worked for any organization. When asked for her city of residence, she declined and refused to answer further questions.
In the letter sent to football players and their families on March 18, Hardis, Peters and Srithai wrote they had “come to the conclusion that bringing Coach Creel back would jeopardize the standing of our football program and that of its student-athletes and their families, who are highly invested in its success.”
“The reason for this decision is rooted in the findings of an investigation into recruiting allegations made by an anonymous source several months ago,” the letter continued. “ At the direction of the Board of Education, Superintendent Bob Hardis undertook this investigation and discovered that individuals Coach Creel kept extremely close to his football program for a long time were involved in actions demonstrating a pattern of influence over families’ enrollment in Beachwood Schools. Extensive and detailed circumstantial evidence supports this conclusion. Although Coach Creel has been witness to these individuals’ actions, he has either turned a blind eye to them because he did not care about the risks or he was concerned about the potential negative consequences of their actions, yet did nothing to address them. Either way, it is unacceptable to us for a coach to take such risks with our sports program.”
A special meeting of the Beachwood Board of Education was scheduled for 3 p.m. May 10. It is unclear if Creel’s status was going to be discussed at that meeting.