I-Team 8

Center Grove HS football player apologizes in letter for blackface

GREENWOOD, Ind. (WISH) — In a letter sent to I-Team 8 on Thursday, the Center Grove High School football player who went viral after being seen in blackface apologies to the community and to Popeye Williams.

Williams is the Westfield football player who says the Center Grove athlete, who News 8 is not identifying at the request of his parent, was imitating Williams in blackface. The photo began circulating after the Center Grove football team defeated Westfield in the Class 6A championship game Saturday night at Lucas Oil Stadium.

This is the full letter sent:

“I have been wanting to reach out but was unsure of the best way to do so because of the media attention it has gotten. I would like to start off by apologizing to all the people I have offended and hurt. I had no racial or vulgar intention with this situation. I was just a 15-year-old celebrating a win with my teammates and we were messing around on the bus with eye black. Before this hit social media, none of us knew or had been educated on blackface or the true meaning behind it. Since that time, I have been educating myself on the history and meaning of blackface and hopefully others involved in this situation have as well. Now that I know the meaning, I would like to apologize to all I have offended, especially Popeye Williams. It was not directed towards him nor was it directed toward anyone. I would like to personally apologize to Popeye for making him feel the way he did about it and I would also like to thank him for handling the situation with grace. I would like to personally reach out to him and his family and apologize formally about the situation and maybe he can educate me more.

“In my life, I have never had any type of racial aggression or ill feeling toward any race. I have always been a person to try and bring people together through joy and laughter. Never have I purposely tried to put people down or make them feel different than anybody else. I have friends and family of many racial diversities and love and support them the same as anyone else. I am always there if they need something. I am sorry that it has come to this and social media has tried dividing all of us. I would like for this to impact and change others and myself so that we all support and love each other and have each other’s back no matter skin color, cultural or religious beliefs because together we are stronger, and we can make a change. I believe in Popeye’s motto – #spreadlovenothate.”

When I-Team 8 spoke to Williams on Monday, he said, “At the end of the day, I will forgive him for what he did and move on from it. And like I said, wish him the best of luck. I wish him the best in life in general, and hope he’s successful.”

I-Team 8 asked Williams how he felt about the letter. Williams texted, “If that’s truly his apology letter, I love it. I know that plenty of people in this state, specifically, are still strongly bothered by his actions. I strongly believe and every else strongly believes that consequences should be taken. I thank him and his family for the apology letter.”

Williams says he has not received a direct apology or heard from the Center Grove teen as of Thursday.

The mom of the Center Grove teen told I-Team 8 that the athlete is planning on reaching out directly to Williams.

Former Indianapolis Colts player Robert Mathis tweeted Thursday morning about the incident: “Very proud of nephew @Popeye2022 for being extremely mature and displaying integrity during this time but we still request a sit down with the Center Grove High School head coach.”