Elkhorn North’s Britt Prince apologizes after ‘ignorant’ Holocaust comment

A flippant two-word answer to a question that made light of the Holocaust has led to soul-searching and difficult conversations at the home of the state’s top high school basketball recruit.

And a teachable moment for all concerned.

It started earlier this fall when Elkhorn North junior guard Britt Prince, who has more than 30 Division I basketball scholarship offers, competed in cross country. Two male members of the team began calling her “Brittler”, apparently conflating her name with that of Adolf Hitler.

Prince has said he didn’t know why they started doing it, but they stuck with the nickname. Britt never told them to stop, although in hindsight she said she wishes she had.

Three weeks ago, the situation boiled over. A classmate recording a video put a microphone in her face, called her “Brittler” and asked her how many Jews she had killed.

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Britt replied, “Six million,” citing the number of deaths from the Holocaust that he learned about in an elementary school history class. The boy then posted the video on social media and that night he caught the attention of Ann Prince, Britt’s mother and basketball coach.

Ann alerted Elkhorn North principal Dan Radicia and athletic director Luke Ford to the video and began the task of calling every college coach who had offered her daughter a scholarship.

Radicia approached the Omaha Jewish Community Center for advice. The answer was to educate teens, not punish them for their actions.

The facts of the story are laid out in a recent article written by Howard Megdal, the grandson of a concentration camp survivor and the editor of a women’s basketball publication called The Next.

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In addition to a one-sentence statement to The World-Herald, Ann Prince has asked that any quotes of hers on the situation come from that story.

In his statement to the newspaper, he said: “We are extremely sorry for what happened and are very grateful for the people at the Jewish Community Center who are helping in our education, growth and understanding.”

In Megdal’s story, Ann Prince spoke of the time she confronted Britt about the video.

“She burst into tears,” Ann said. “’I don’t know why I said that.’ A lot of remorse, from the beginning.”

The teens’ question and answer struck a nerve in part because of recent anti-Semitic accusations leveled at high-profile celebrities like NBA player Kyrie Irving and rapper Ye (formerly Kanye West). Nike suspended his relationship with Irving after he posted a tweet promoting an anti-Semitic movie, and West was suspended from Twitter and Instagram for anti-Semitic comments.

On the home front, Creighton released a statement that he would be releasing his long-running “Power” intro music by West at sporting events “to ensure a respectful campus environment and positive fan experience.”

Sharon Brodkey of the Council on Jewish Community Relations said the controversies created by Irving and Ye go far beyond what happened to 17-year-old Britt Prince in Elkhorn North.

“It’s not fair to put Britt with them,” he said. “His is long-standing anti-Semitism, while Britt was stating a historical fact, albeit in a mocking manner made of ignorance.”

Brodkey invited both Princes, along with Radicia, Ford, and the boy who shot the video, to the JCC. They met with Scott Littky, executive director of the Institute for Holocaust Education, and viewed the current “Survival Portraits” exhibit: photos and stories of various Douglas County Holocaust survivors.

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“We were eager to help and educate,” Brodkey said. “We didn’t want to see a young woman’s career go up in flames for a few seconds of stupidity.”

Radicia said seeing the exhibit brought a personal connection.

“When you hear that 6 million people were killed, it’s hard to understand,” he said. “When you see that some survivors were local people named Joe or Fred, then it’s not a joke anymore.”

Brodkey said he could feel the teens’ remorse during his visit to the JCC.

“We felt they were very embarrassed,” he said. “I think they understood after some reflection how wrong they had been.”

He added that education about the Holocaust, the extermination of 6 million Jews by Nazi-led Germany during World War II, must continue.

“It’s a difficult concept for students to grasp,” he said. “Trivializing one of the most tragic events in history in a simplistic and mocking way is just sad.”

Brodkey said the years since the Holocaust and the deaths of those rescued from concentration camps (few of the JCC’s “Survival Portraits” are still alive) make keeping the memory of the Holocaust alive all the more important.

“It is falling behind and the younger generation may not know or understand it,” he said. “It’s important that school districts have the resources to teach it correctly.”

Radicia said that because it was a student discipline issue, she couldn’t comment specifically on the situation.

“I’m going to say this,” he said. “In times when a student is presenting something insensitively, educating why it was hurtful is the best course of action.”

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Brodkey said he was unaware of Britt Prince’s status as a highly recruited athlete before meeting her in recent weeks.

“My son is an adult, I don’t live in Elkhorn and I don’t follow basketball,” he said. “But I intend to continue her career from now on and continue to work with her and the Elkhorn North staff.”

As for the future, it remains to be seen what effect the video will have on Britt Prince’s budding basketball career. The 5-foot-11 guard who averaged 24 points in her sophomore year has led the Wolves to two state titles in the school’s first two college seasons.

But there have already been ramifications. A university that had been recruiting her canceled a visit.

For his part, Britt spoke with his basketball teammates about what happened and what he has learned since then. She also posted her own lengthy apology on Twitter.

“On October 20, 2022, I made a really ignorant comment that was totally wrong. And from the bottom of my heart, I am terribly sorry for any harm it has caused to the Jewish community. It is never okay to take such a horrible event lightly. I fully acknowledge my mistake and intend to move forward by apologizing and committing to educate myself and stand up to all forms of hate or bigotry. Both words and silence can hurt and this is not what is in my heart.

Britt Prince Statement

Though she oversees a different sport, Creighton volleyball coach Kirsten Bernthal Booth responded to Megdal’s article on Twitter while quoting an unknown author as saying, “Mistakes have the power to make you better than you were before.” .

“There is a lot to learn from this article,” he tweeted. “Proud of (Britt) for owning this and letting others learn from her mistake. As difficult as this has been, she will learn and be better in the long run.”

JCC administrator Brodkey agreed.

“This was a teaching moment because I was a teenager making a comment out of ignorance,” he said. “There was a real sense of remorse on Britt’s part, and I know this is something that will determine who she is forever.”

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