Najee Ali, director of Project Islamic HOPE, has filed a federal civil rights complaint with the Department of Justice (DOJ) against Santa Monica High School wrestling coach Mark Black and the two white student-wrestlers accused of racially bullying a black teammate on May 4. Surprisingly, Ali’s complaint doesn’t include the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District.

The Santa Monica Daily Press reported (“Civil rights complaint filed in Samohi incident,” July 7, page 1) that Ali’s complaint alleges that the victim was “attacked” and that the two wrestlers “taunted the victim with a noose.” It also alleges “that Black did not report either crime to the police.” Terrorizing people with a noose is a criminal offense according to the California Penal Code and must be reported to law enforcement.

The mother of the victim has repeatedly expressed her support of Coach Black and blamed the school district “for not instructing their staff on what to do when this sort of incident happens.”

While I consider what the two wrestlers did to their teammate to be offensive, reprehensible and inexcusable, I just don’t have the impression they’re white supremacists or racially intolerant. In all the news coverage I’ve read and personal e-mails I’ve received, nowhere has anyone hinted that the two athletes are racists.

I suspect that this incident came about as the usual locker room prank. Horseplay, off-color and seemingly demeaning racially or sexually-tinged comments (the “N” word), slurs about Hispanics, the disabled, mentally challenged, women and homosexuals are common around athletic facilities. I personally find this all to be very uncomfortable, unnecessary and wrong, but it frequently occurs in all levels of competitive sports, usually without any serious consequence.

Taking it a step further — using hurtful symbols such as a swastika or noose, playing out hate-inspired acts and using even more charged slurs, hurtful words or labels — is even more despicable and unacceptable. I still have a feeling that the use of a noose and alleged comments about “slave for sale” in this case, came more out of sheer ignorance and gross stupidity rather than malice or hate. I may be wrong, but I hope I’m right.

News reports state that some parents were advised by the district but, inexplicably, not the victim’s mother. These same news reports mention that student cell phone photos of the incident were either deleted by district representatives (administrators, teachers or staff) or ordered removed — an unfortunate mandate considering the photos could be considered evidence in a criminal investigation.

The school board is trying to determine why there was no clear-cut policy for handling this type of incident and what steps to take to provide effective “tolerance” training for all students. Santa Monica police are investigating the incident itself and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department is investigating the school district’s handling of the incident to see if laws were violated. Apparently, none of this mattered to publicity hound Najee Ali.

Najee Ali is the head of Project Islamic HOPE — “A national civil rights organization that advocates for the human rights of all oppressed people regardless of race, gender or religion,” according to the organization’s website. Ali’s biography describes him (aka Ronald Todd Eskew) as “Courageous” and “A beacon for justice.” Of course, there’s no mention of Ali’s other side.

A 2008 Los Angeles Times article quotes Los Angeles City Councilman Bernard Parks. “Najee has been on the wrong side of the law pretty consistently … .” The same article describes Ali as a “former gang member before becoming a ‘community activist’” and notes he was “convicted of robbery in 1992.”

According to Superior Court documents online, Ali was convicted of felony hit-and-run and leaving the scene of an automobile accident in the Crenshaw area and perjury on Oct. 14, 2004 — resulting in probation.

On Aug. 18, 2008, Ali was convicted of attempted bribery of a witness who was set to testify in a 2008 trail against his daughter in San Bernardino. He was sentenced to four years for a probation violation (resulting from the 2004 incident) and failure to pay $29,240 in restitution. He served three years and was released in March.

The DOJ complaint is the relaunch of Ali’s career as a “celebrity” community activist after three years behind bars.

I don’t think Ali really cares about the victim and even less about the two other boys involved whose lives could be forever ruined by being pilloried for a stupid, senseless act and unwarrantably branded as racists.

To me, Ali’s failure to include the SMMUSD in the complaint is a dead giveaway that it’s really all about ego, not equality and justice.

I can’t wait for the outcome of the DOJ’s own investigation and to see if Ali’s complaint has any merit.

Bill can be reached at

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