Kalusha Kotes heads the graduation recessional of the University of Maine at Fort Kent Class of 2018. Credit: Jessica Potila / St. John Valley Times

CARIBOU, Maine — Easton School District banned an employee from soccer games for a year after he yelled racial slurs at Fort Kent boys varsity soccer head coach Kalusha Kotes during a recent tournament in Caribou.

Easton’s head custodian, Craig Lamoreau, who is white and whose two sons play for the Easton Bears, shouted the racial slurs at Kotes, who is Black, during a game. Lamoreau retains his job with the school district.

The incident took place at the 7 vs. 7 High School Summer Soccer Tourney on July 30. Boys and girls soccer teams from throughout Aroostook County competed at the tournament, which is held annually ahead of the high school soccer season.

Although Kotes appreciated the actions the Easton School District took, he said there should be more because if the situation were reversed, there would be.

“He did it now, he will do it again — and you know what the kids of color are going through within his school district,” Kotes said. 

Entering his fifth year as head coach of the Fort Kent team, Kotes said he has never to his knowledge been on the receiving end of racism during a game before. He saw a parent saying stuff during the game but didn’t know until after that he was shouting racial slurs directed at him, he said.

Lamoreau said he is diabetic and had not eaten all day, which clouded his judgment. He said he became frustrated after one son was taken out of the game with an injury. While attending to him, his other son was put in and a Fort Kent player pushed him from behind with both hands.

“That’s when I lost it,” Lamoreau said. “I’m truly sorry, and I’m not a bad person.”

It is a loss not to be able to attend his sons’ games for the next year, he said.

“I made some comments that I can’t take back, and I’m very sorry and upset at myself,” Lamoreau said. “I said things that I would never in my life say to anyone, especially in public.”

Kotes, who came from Jamaica to go to school and decided to stay in Fort Kent, is studying nursing at University of Maine at Fort Kent and works as a nurse’s aid. He is a 2018 UMFK graduate with a bachelor’s degree in business and is a USCAA National Championship athlete. 

He has led the Warriors to two Class C state championship games during his tenure as the team’s coach, including last year. 

Fort Kent Athletic Director Josh Nichols was not at the Caribou tournament but said he later received an apology from Easton Athletic Director Samantha Swallow for how Lamoreau had treated Kotes.

Kotes did not receive an apology. 

“Kalusha dealt with it with the utmost respect. He could not have handled himself better,” Nichols said.

Fort Kent Superintendent Ben Sirois would not confirm details of a conversation he had with Easton Superintendent Mark Stanley after the incident, but said he trusted it was handled appropriately, and hoped a Fort Kent staff member would never be involved in a discrimination situation.

He pointed out that referees are the officials of every game and should ensure that all coaches and athletes are treated fairly and without bias.

Maine Association of Soccer Officials President Alex Pleau said he had not been made aware of the incident prior to Wednesday, but would reach out to the local association to find out if a report has been filed by the school, coach or officials. 

Although he didn’t hear most of what was being said to Kotes during the game, Easton coach Ryan Shaw said he asked Caribou officials to remove Lamoreau from the field once he became aware of the verbal abuse.

“The actions were from an individual adult attending the tournament and certainly do not reflect our players, team or school,” Shaw said. “I teach my players to be hard working, respectful people first and foremost, and if we win games along the way — great.  Racism is not something I, my players or the school district tolerates.” 

Stanley, Easton’s superintendent, and Swallow, Easton’s AD, did not respond to requests for comment.  

Kotes said if Lamoreau felt disgruntled about the game, he had other options to express his frustration without using racist comments.

“Well if he wanted to coach, he could just ask,” Kotes said.