Soccer

Racist letter warns Idaho youth soccer coach to ‘be careful.’ Instead, he’s fighting back.

"This is what this community's all about."

Idaho Juniors Futbol Club head coach Jeromy Tarkon received a threatening racist letter last weekend. On Saturday, dozens of people showed up to an early morning game to make sure Tarkon knew the soccer community stood with him in solidarity.
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Idaho Juniors Futbol Club head coach Jeromy Tarkon received a threatening racist letter last weekend. On Saturday, dozens of people showed up to an early morning game to make sure Tarkon knew the soccer community stood with him in solidarity.

Jeromy Tarkon walked out to his driveway Sunday morning and discovered a letter on the windshield of his Jeep.

The youth soccer coach thought he’d find a donation inside for his budding club soccer team, the Idaho Juniors Futbol Club. Instead, he found an anonymous letter spewing racial slurs and instructing him to quit or “be careful.”

Tarkon’s initial reaction was to ignore it. But after watching his players receive racial slurs for years and consulting with his coaches, the president of the club decided to go public and fight back.

“This is something that minorities are having to deal with on a daily basis,” Tarkon said. “It’s time. It’s time to take a stand, and it’s time to force people to act.”

The letter attacked the former Army non-commissioned officer and his three-year-old soccer club after a weekend of indoor soccer games. The club fields approximately 60 boys from ages 7 to 11, and 75 percent of its players come from ethnic minorities, refugee families or other countries.

“It’s because of liberals like you that our state is full of [n-word] and wet-----,” the anonymous letter reads. “Your [n-word] boy made the soccer field unclean by stepping on it. You are no better than the trash families you have. You are trash.

Idaho Juniors FC President Jeromy Tarkon received a racist letter last weekend that used several slurs and told him to quit or "be careful." Instead, the soccer coach is speaking out against racism.

“Be careful how you coach. One day you might piss off the wrong parent or families. The Juniors are a joke. Quit now before the whole state hates you.

“Be careful.”

Eagle Police is investigating the letter as malicious harassment, Ada County Sheriff’s spokesman Patrick Orr said. Idaho’s hate crime law includes harassment based on a person’s race, ancestry or national origin and is punishable by up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

Anyone with information should contact Eagle Police at (208) 938-2260.

Tarkon, who is white, said he wasn’t surprised by the racial slurs used in the letter because he’s heard them before on the soccer field. But he said delivering the letter to his home, where he lives with his wife and two young sons, brought the issue to a head.

“We’ve had a kid referred to as the n-word twice,” Tarkon said. “We’ve had our families told: ‘Quit speaking your stupid language. If you don’t speak English, get out.’ Or: ‘Here comes the future convicts. Watch your wallets.’ ”

Idaho Juniors FC includes boys from Ethiopia, Kenya, Israel, Colombia, Guatemala, Mexico, Portugal, Bosnia, Ukraine and Russia. Tarkon said he never set out to establish a multicultural soccer club, and it’s not uncommon to hear up to eight different languages on the field.

“It just happened. And man, what a blessing,” Tarkon said. “How cool is that?”

The letter on Tarkon’s windshield follows a spree of vandalism targeting Boise minorities.

A swastika and racial slurs were spray-painted onto a Boise playground in November. In July, an Ethiopian restaurant owner’s wife had the n-word scratched into her car, and a Middle Eastern restaurant had a swastika and the word “rapeugees” written in chalk on its sidewalk. The Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial was defaced with racist and anti-Semitic graffiti in May. The n-word was scrawled in snow atop a storage shed at the Idaho Black History Museum last winter. And an arsonist set fire to the Boise International Market, which housed many refugee businesses, in 2015.

“This is so much bigger than the Juniors and them targeting us,” Tarkon said. “This is something that the community has experienced.”

Craig Warner, the executive director of the Idaho Youth Soccer Association, said the state association plans to muster its full weight to punish whoever wrote the letter. It could temporarily suspend or ban a player or coach for life if it finds out who wrote the letter. If a parent wrote the letter, it could ban that parent from the sidelines.

Warner has coached soccer in Idaho since 1993 and said he’s never seen anything like the letter Tarkon received.

“It’s a shame it’s come down to this, or people in society believe they want to do this,” Warner said. “Hopefully, we can find out who it is and make an example of them. Because we won’t tolerate this.”

Warner said the state soccer association has considered adopting anti-abuse policies, which would include racial abuse. Tasked with protecting 7,500 players in the Treasure Valley and 16,000 in Idaho, the threatening and racist letter pushes those policies to the forefront.

“There is no room for that kind of racism, whatsoever,” Warner said. “Soccer is such a culturally diverse sport, in particular in our state.”

Tarkon hasn’t had a chance to address the letter with his players yet but said he will at an ice cream party Friday. He’ll take questions from players and parents and is searching for the next step. The club’s next games are Saturday, with the first game starting at 7 a.m. at Boise Indoor Soccer.

He has floated ideas of Idaho Junior players wearing armbands or teaming up with other local soccer clubs for shirts that denounce racism. The club also has started a GoFundMe page where it will donate all the money raised to an organization dedicated to fighting racism.

“Listen, I’m not big enough to make a difference nationally,” Tarkon said. “But we together are big enough to make a difference in our community, in our backyard.

“That’s what I want to happen. For us to rally with one another and say: ‘Hey, we’re going to make a difference cohesively. We’re going to stand up together, join arms, lock hands, and we’re going to go fight racism.’

“And that means we beat them with unconditional love. Fighting hate with hate isn’t going to work. It just won’t. So we need to figure out a way to make this happen.”

Michael Lycklama: 208-377-6424, @MichaelLycklama

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