BLOOMFIELD HILLS - Bloomfield Hills senior Jay Cooke was suspended from his final football game after he was accused of making a racist remark, but others believe it was a simple misunderstanding.
On Tuesday Cooke happened to be in the stands watching the district playoff soccer game between Bloomfield Hills and Southfield Lathrup when an African-American player on the opposing team went down with a leg cramp.
FOX 2 was told Cooke yelled out, "Get that boy a banana." The other team's coach heard the comment and felt it was racist.
The Bloomfield Hills school district felt it had no choice but to suspend Cooke from his final football game and school sporting events for the rest of the year.
"We know Jay for too long to know he wouldn't say something like that for it to come out racist," said classmate Kip Martin, who is African-American.
"I think it was blown way out of proportion," said student Ty Slazinski who is white. "I don't think what he said was meant to be racist at all."
FOX 2: do you think that was a racist comment?
"No because it happens to athletes all of the time on the football team," Martin said. "If you catch a cramp one way to get potassium in your system is to eat a banana he didn't make a racist tone at all."
Do you think he should be playing in the last game because we need him I just feel like he is a nice guy it would suck for him to have it taken away like this
Angry with the district's decision, a student started an online petition to help change the mind of the administration. About 2,000 people signed it.
"I just keep hearing the comment and what he said I don't think it was racist at all just knowing him," said student Devon Lynch, who is African-American. "I feel like if they knew the type of guy he was they would understand too."
The students feel the school district simply overreacted after dealing with a blatant case of ethnic intimidation last spring. Boys were caught on cellphone video threatening a student on a school bus calling him the "n" word.
The district has since implemented a zero tolerance policy but countless people including Kip Martin just don't think this comment qualifies.
"I just think the school is very nervous and anxious because there has been a lot of suspect things going on here that have been racist," Martin said. "They are just trying to handle it as best as possible I don't think its right."
UPDATE: In a late evening email, the district reversed its decision, saying in an email that Cooke apologized and appealed the decision. There will be an "alternative discipline" due to the issue but declined to be specific.