Boston Celtics wing Jaylen Brown poses with students at Ye's Donda Academy.

Donda Academy: What is the future of Kanye West’s high school basketball team?

Ye’s California squad is the latest of his ventures to be affected by his antisemitic comments.

LOS ANGELES — Kanye West’s high school basketball team faces an uncertain future after Donda Academy, the rapper’s private school, abruptly announced it was closing and then, hours later, reopening.

“We are back and returning with a vengeance!” an email first obtained by TMZ read.

The school’s initial closure had taken place just hours prior. It was first reported by Hollywood Unlocked on Wednesday, citing an email that The London Times later reported was written by the school’s principal Jason Angell. 

“[A]t the direction of our Founder, Donda Academy will close for the remainder of the 2022-2023 school year effective immediately,” the email read. “Thursday, October 27th. THERE IS NO SCHOOL TOMORROW.”

What’s next for Donda Academy?

Until recent events, Donda Academy’s roster for this year was expected to include five-star recruit and Kentucky commit Rob Dillingham, five-star guard AJ Johnson, and four-star wing JJ Taylor. Its coach was Dorell Wright, a 6-9 forward with a 12-year NBA career. 

At time of publication, none of the players had publicly commented on their futures. An email to Wright for comment went unanswered. 

On Wednesday night, class of 2023 prospect Chuck Bailey was the first Donda Academy player to announce his departure from the school. 

“No way I would’ve let my kids ever get involved there,” a source in the high school basketball scene told The Sporting Tribune. “This is a s—show.”

The team had already been dropped by two upcoming tournaments after Ye’s recent string of antisemitic remarks but before the institution’s closing and reopening. 

The Scholastic Play-By-Play Classics announced the showcase would no longer host Donda Academy at this year’s events, including the Kentucky Classic on December 11. 

“Kanye’s words and actions violate our values as a company and a country, and what we seek to ensure at all of our events – a spirit of diversity, sportsmanship, inclusion, equity, and mutual respect,” a statement released by the Play-By-Play Classics said.

The showcase expressed regret for how its decision affected the school’s student-athletes but maintained it was a necessary step.

“This country has to grow,” Jeremy Treatman, the Play-By-Play Classics’ founder, told The Sporting Tribune. “We can’t normalize this.”

Treatman added that “the school itself reached out to us and agreed with our decision” and that head coach Wright had been “amazing.” 

The Hoophall Classic, one of the most important high school tournaments, also dropped Donda Academy from its January event.

As of today, the school is still scheduled to play their first game of the season on November 3 in the Minnesota Shorty Classic.

A representative from The Grind Session, one of the hosts listed for the November event, said in a phone call on Thursday morning that the game was “still on.” They added that Donda Academy had not reached out to the event about its basketball program shuttering, which adds up with the school’s sudden reopening.

The Florida-based City of Palms Classic, a December showcase that Donda Academy is scheduled to compete in, told The Sporting Tribune early on Thursday morning it was “waiting to see what unfolds over the next couple of days” in regards to the team’s status. Hours later, The Patrick School from New Jersey was announced as a replacement.

What is Donda Academy?

Donda Academy is a private school in Simi Valley founded by Ye and named after his late mother Donda. The rapper-designer, 45, was born Kanye West until he legally changed his name to solely Ye last year.

Donda Academy’s 5,700 square-foot campus was previously home to Stoneridge Prep, a Los Angeles hoops powerhouse which counts Enes Kanter Freedom as its most famous alum, until the school closed about ten years ago.

Little is known about Donda Academy, but its website lists a daily schedule containing: core classes of language arts, math, and science; courses about visual art, film, and choir; lunch, recess, and parkour; and full school worship. 

“We are building the next generation of athletes with an innovative approach to faith and teamwork,” the website says about Donda Academy’s sports programs.

Requests to Brianne Campbell (the head of the school, per the California Department of Education) and Donda Academy for comment went unanswered.  

A Rolling Stone article published in September quoted consultant Tamar Andrews as saying that Donda Academy’s enrollment was under 100 students, of which around half are financially backed by Ye’s “personal network.” The school’s yearly tuition is $15,000.

The publication also wrote that two sources had alleged Donda Academy was asking those close to the school to sign non-disclosure agreements.

Andrews, who is also a director at American Jewish University, resigned from her position at Donda Academy in early October — just days after Ye posted a tweet threatening to go “death con 3 On JEWISH PEOPLE.” The news was first broken by The Hollywood Reporter.

“The only statement [I am] giving any media outlets is that my intention was to stand up and not to stand out,” she told The Sporting Tribune. 

Such disruption during the school year can be detrimental to students’ mental health and academics.

“I would imagine it’s going to promote quite a bit of anxiety on the part of students and families,” Julie Marsh, a professor at the University of Southern California’s school of education, said. “That could be pretty catastrophic for kids.”

Another concern about Donda Academy is that the school’s accreditation status, which could potentially impact its students’ college admissions process.

It had applied for accreditation with the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC), but it remains unclear how or if recent events will affect that process. WASC’s directory does not currently list Donda Academy as an accredited school.

Three Donda Academy graduates are set to play Division I basketball this coming season: Braeden Moore for BYU, Zion Cruz for DePaul, and Bryce Baker for Old Dominion.

“Donda is like any other prep school,” Moore, who played for Donda Academy last year, told The Sporting Tribune. He added that he took classes online, graduated without any complications, and that he didn’t have to sign an NDA to join the school. 

Why now?

Donda Academy’s uncertain situation and reputational blow represents another professional headache for Ye in wake of his antisemitic comments.

Gap, Adidas, Balenciaga, and talent agency CAA are among those to have already cut ties with him. On the sports side, Boston Celtics wing Jaylen Brown and Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald both parted ways with Ye’s sports agency Donda Sports. 

Brown initially condemned Ye’s comments but said he would stay with the agency. One day later, he acknowledged: “There are times when my voice and my position can’t coexist in spaces that don’t correspond with my stance or my values.” 

On Thursday, Brown tweeted: “A lot of great teachers, parents, and students are affected by this […] Why make them apart [sic] of this?” He also alleged that Donda Academy’s high school was fully accredited.

Last weekend, a hate group hung a banner on a 405 Freeway overpass reading “Kanye is right about the Jews.” Antisemitic fliers dispersed around LA neighborhoods were being investigated by the Los Angeles and Beverly Hills police departments.  

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