The entire girls basketball team at Kenmore East High School in the Buffalo (NY) area has been suspended for using a racially offensive pregame chant, The Buffalo News reports.  Before games, the players would psych themselves up by holding hands and saying “One, two, three [N-word].”  Read more after the jump.

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Apparently it’s a tradition that has been ongoing for years, yet nobody complained, or thought it was in poor taste. That was until sophomore Tyra Batts, the team’s only African-American player, said something.

“I said, ‘You’re not allowed to say that word because I don’t like that word,'” she told The Buffalo News. “They said, ‘You know we’re not racist, Tyra. It’s just a word, not a label.’ I was outnumbered.”

Tyra became angry after having her feelings ignored. During a practice scrimmage, she exchanged words with a teammate after they engaged in rough play.

According to The Buffalo News, Tyra said she “said something dumb,” after which her teammate called her “a black piece of [expletive].” Then on Monday, she said, she saw the girl in school, threw her into a locker, choked and punched her. “It was a buildup of anger and frustration at being singled out of the whole team,” she told the newspaper.

Both girls were suspended for fighting, though Tyra’s suspension was reduced to five days after the school’s administration learned why she started the fight.

Batts says the pregame chant was only a small part of the racism she experienced. She says “heard jokes during practice, including ones regarding slavery, shackles and picking cotton.”

Mark P. Mondanaro, superintendent of the Kenmore-Town of Tonawanda School District, said no coaches, administrators or other adults with the school were aware of the pregame chant until Tyra was suspended for the fight.

“The minute an adult knew, we started our inquiry and investigation,” Mondanaro explained Thursday.

The school district suspended the team’s practices for a week, postponed a game, canceled a trip, rescinded a sportsmanship award the team had won, and suspended each player for a game. Players who continue the chant will be suspended two days, and all players will participate in cultural sensitivity training.

Batts’ family appreciated the swift action of the school district, but they would have liked to see the entire season canceled. Tyra’s father believes the chant is indicative of a larger problem that has been going on for years.

Tyra says she’s willing to play for the junior varsity team, though she’s concerned that the varsity team may see more racial issues when they face African-American opponents. She says only two of her teammates have apologized to her.