Community members are outraged after a high school team experienced blatant racism during a championship game Saturday. The game took place between Orange Glen High School and Coronado High School in California. After the game, which Coronado won, Orange Glen Head Coach Chris Featherly said Coronado Head Coach J.D. Laaperi made disrespectful remarks toward both him and his players, but that’s not all. Coronado supporters took the sports rivalry to another level when they threw tortillas at Orange Glen players, who are mostly Latino, The San Diego Union-Tribune reported.
Videos shared on social media depict at least two players from Coronado, a predominantly white school, throwing tortillas. According to The San Diego Union-Tribune, witnesses shared that there were several heated moments on and off the court during the game that preceded the tortilla incident.
While the school board and school district discussed disciplinary action against the students involved in the tortilla throwing Tuesday, no action against them was taken The San Diego Union-Tribune reported.
Instead, Laaperi, the head coach of the team that threw the tortillas was fired. Further comments on the incident, what action will be taken, and whether or not the incident will be deemed racist have not been made at this time.
Members of the Orange Glen team, specifically the Latino players, were extremely disturbed, Orange Glen Assistant Coach Lizardo Reynoso told CBS San Diego. "They understand that there's a lot of racism and hate going on today, but to top that off with a defeat after working so hard all year, it's like a slap in the face," Reynoso said.
The school district has since apologized, but that doesn’t make the experience any better for the students and those who attended the game. "The Trustees of the Coronado Unified School District acknowledge these acts to be egregious, demeaning and disrespectful," the district said in a letter to Orange Glen Monday. The letter continued by noting that the trustees condemned "the racism, classism and colorism which fueled the actions of the perpetrators."
The California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) also issued a statement noting that it would work with both schools to address the matter and take the “appropriate next steps.”
The Escondido Union High School District where Orange Glen is located also said it has been in contact with the Coronado Unified School District regarding what actions will be taken against those involved. The school boards plan to meet Tuesday to discuss the matter.
“Unfortunately a community member brought tortillas and distributed them which was unacceptable and racist in nature,” Laaperi said on Twitter. “I do not condone this behavior. Coronado High School does not condone this behavior and is already taking appropriate action.”
According to the Coronado Police Department, which was called to help clear the gym after the game, a man was identified as the individual responsible for bringing the tortillas to the game. “We are extremely disturbed by the behavior of some of those attending last night’s basketball game. Their actions are completely unacceptable,” the department said in a statement. Investigations into the incident are ongoing.
While the school district vowed to take action and apologized for the incident, not every member of Coronado's team believed the incident was wrong. The Chicano Federation shared an Instagram post by a Coronado High School basketball account that claimed the tortilla toss is not racist but known as a tradition at other schools. The since-deleted post compared tossing tortillas at players to tossing confetti.
According to a statement by the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), this ideology is shared by members of the Coronado Parent-Teacher-Organization (PTO) Facebook who claimed that “throwing tortillas is like heaving ‘Frisbees’ or ‘graduation caps’ into the air as a ‘celebratory action’.”
“Coronado supporters are trying to play the victim here saying the reaction to the tortilla tossing is ‘extremely upsetting’ to them. Try walking in the shoes of those struck by their projectiles,” the statement issued by LULAC National President Domingo Garcia continued.
The incident comes as the third of its kind that has been condemned as racist in San Diego County high school sports. Last year racist photos of students were circulated, with some depicting players holding up gang signs. In 2019, another incident occurred in which students from the football team were taunted with racial slurs, The San Diego Union-Tribune reported.
“We should have universal condemnation of this activity,” Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez-Fletcher said on Twitter while sharing her own daughter’s experience of racism as a student-athlete. “Parents in SD County know that racist taunts against latino athletes are too commonplace. It’s time to stop it.
“Teach your kids not to be racist,” she continued. “Tortillas are for eating, not throwing.” Gonzalez-Fletcher also called for CIF officials to strip the school of its championship.
Others shared similar sentiments, including the California Latino Legislative Caucus leadership, which issued a statement Monday noting that “there must be consequences … We call on CIF to take strong action to hold the responsible students and school accountable for these hateful, violating acts,” the statement said.
Given the history of racism and consistent racist acts school members have committed in sports, advocates believe if the behavior is not punished, it will continue.
“Action needs to be taken, and I think the action should be that Coronado should forfeit that game,” Social justice advocate Enrique Morones said. “These hate acts, they got to be called out. We cannot accept it. These are young people. They obviously have been influenced maybe by their parents or their friends, and we got to call it out.
“If people find out exactly what happened, I believe that the majority of the community will be against these types of actions,” Morones said.