‘Cool Runnings’ Olympians ‘flattered’ by blackface costumes

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SAN DIEGO – An original member of the Jamaican bobsleigh Olympic team spoke out Wednesday about the controversial blackface costumes worn by Serra High School employees.

1988 Jamaican bobsled team Courtesy: Devon Harris

1988 Jamaican bobsled team Courtesy: Devon Harris

Head football coach Brian Basteyns, Assistant Coach Harold Seeley and a teacher recently dressed as members of the Jamaican bobsleigh team depicted in the movie “Cool Runnings.”

After civil rights groups spoke out against the costumes, the San Diego Unified School District suspended the three employees for two days without pay.

On Wednesday, one of the men who inspired the costumes spoke to Fox 5 about the controversy. Devon Harris was part of the original Jamaican bobsleigh team that competed in the 1988 Winter Olympics. The team inspired “Cool Runnings.”

“We’re flattered. We’re not offended,” said Harris, quoting former teammate Chris Stokes. Harris, Stokes and another former teammate spoke about the controversy recently.

Coaches Under Fire After Wearing Blackface CostumesHarris said after speaking with the other men he decided to contact Coach Basteyns to let him know they were not offended.

“I said to him ‘listen, I think the only people you need to be worried about offending are the guys on the sled and at least three of us, cause I didn’t speak to Michael White about this, but certainly three of us are by no means offended,’” Harris said.

Harris, who is now a motivational speaker, said he hopes people will start embracing their differences.

“People are simply hyper sensitive when it comes down to race and racism,” said Harris. “I am not naïve enough to think there is no such thing as racism. Of course it’s alive and well, but I think every time we brush up on anything race or ethnic, people just go off the deep end.”

Harris also said he believes there are other issues people should be focusing on.

“There are bigger racial problems that need to be tackled and I think we should spend our energy doing that,” said Harris.

Fox 5 contacted Coach Basteyns and he confirmed speaking with Harris. Basteyns declined Fox 5’s request for an interview.

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