Nicholas Sandmann has been identified as the Catholic school teenager seen staring down a Native American man in a viral video, and now images of the teen have spread across social media as people search for clues about the teen and the incident.
Sandmann had initially not been named as video spread across the internet showing his classmates surrounding Nathan Phillips, a Native American man banging a drum and singing a traditional song amid a tense scene after the March for Life rally this weekend. Phillips said he was trying to diffuse the situation as the Covington Catholic High School school teenagers were sparring with Black Hebrew preachers, and many saw the reaction of Sandmann and his classmates as racist. Many had dubbed Sandmann the “MAGA teen” since he and many of his classmates wore Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” hats and shirts.
The teen has now released a statement giving his side of the issue. Published by CNN’s Jake Tapper, the statement claimed that he was not intentionally making faces at Phillips as the Native American man sang, and said he was only smiling because he wanted the man to know that he was not growing angry and did not want to spark a confrontation.
The statement — and the confirmation of earlier identification of Nicholas Sandmann as the teen in the video — sparked people to scrub the internet for social media pictures of the teen to see if there were any clues about his motivations. While many posted pictures claiming to show Sandmann with his parents, there was some fake information as well in what appeared to be an attempt to paint him as a racist.
This is the moment when you think how cool you were and minute by minute you are realizing that you had been the idiot of the day. Still playing cool but getting eaten inside by your own stupidity.#CovingtonCatholicHighSchool #nicholassandmann pic.twitter.com/V34wPvpEHK— JerryPan (@JPan77) January 20, 2019
Someone created what appeared to be a fake Twitter page for the teen, misspelling his last name and using the page to spew far-right rhetoric. There also appeared to be some trolling on Facebook pages created in support of Nicholas Sandmann, with some posting racist rhetoric and citing white supremacist David Duke in defense of the teen.
But others said Sandmann was unfairly taking all of the blame in what many saw as a misunderstanding. While some of the other teens appeared to taunt Phillips, Sandmann’s explanation claimed he was uncomfortable and unsure of how to react to the man.
Covington Catholic High School had announced that administrators were investigating the incident and that the students involved could face discipline, including expulsion. Nicholas Sandmann said he would fully cooperate with the school’s investigation of the incident.