ROCKY MOUNT, N.C. — Three former assistant high-school football coaches said they lost their jobs for speaking out about a racist comment on the field.
They also are law-enforcement officers, and they said the school system is taking too long to investigate their complaint.
For the Rocky Mount Senior High School football team, the 2002 season was a winner but was not without turmoil.
Coach Travis Uzzell, also a Highway Patrol trooper, said he heard assistant coach Chris Lee make a racially offensive remark while leading quarterback Terrell Hudgins in a workout maneuver.
"He told him: 'You're lucky it was only 15 up-and-downs,'" Uzzell said. "'Back in the good ol' days, it would have been 15 lashes.'"
Uzzell wanted the issue addressed. But he said Wednesday that has not happened.
"The principal advised me to keep it in house," Uzzell said. "But I said: 'No. I'm going to the superintendent.' He said he'd let the principal handle it, and I haven't heard anything else from the superintendent since."
Last summer, the school system relieved Uzzell of his volunteer coaching job. Two other assistants who had stood by Uzzell also were released: Highway Patrol trooper Clee Atkinson and Rocky Mount police officer Lync Brooks.
The men believe the firings were retaliation for not backing down.
"We faithfully worked with these kids and tried to keep structure for five to six months," Atkinson said. "The (athletic director) just came to us and plainly said: 'They don't want y'all out here anymore.'"
No one at Rocky Mount Senior High School would talk with WRAL. But late Wednesday afternoon, the school system issued a statement saying it "takes allegations such as these very seriously."
The statement also said the issue is under investigation, is confidential under North Carolina law "and should not be discussed."
WRAL tried to contact Lee about the remarks he is accused of making but was unable to reach him.
Neither the principal nor the athletic director would comment.