SAN DIEGO (KGTV) -- The California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) and CIF-San Diego Section are reviewing an incident that happened after a weekend basketball game between Coronado High School and Orange Glen High School players.
On Saturday night, shortly after Coronado High beat Orange Glen 60-57 at the CIF Southern California Boys Basketball Division 4-A Regional Championship, tortillas were hurled at Orange Glen's team.
"They won; we were going to take the loss the way they were supposed to," said Lizardo Reynoso, an assistant basketball coach for Orange Glen, which is located in Escondido.
Reynoso said his team accepted the loss, but what happened after was unacceptable.
"The players on the other team and some fans started throwing tortillas on our whole team, which, as you can see, we're predominately Hispanic and Latino, so it like, took us pretty hard," said Lizardo.
ABC 10News received a video of the moment spectators realized tortillas were being thrown. Two students who were among the spectators that helped clean up in the aftermath were photographed holding some of the bags of the tortillas. The boys were not involved in the tossing incident, a parent told ABC 10News.
"Tortillas were flying in the air like at our bench and stuff," said Anthony Garibay, an Orange Glen basketball player. "It was a great game between both teams, we both played our hearts out, and it ended in a way it shouldn't have ended. The players who obviously threw the tortillas and whoever came up with that should obviously be punished, you know, definitely not taken lightly."
Orange Glen's basketball team coach, Chris Featherly told ABC 10News prior to the incident there were words exchanged between the two heads coaches and that emotion was already running high.
"It's hard enough losing a state championship. To me it was flat out a racist act -- we're a school that has a high population of Hispanic and Latinos and you're taking bags of tortillas throwing it in our direction," Featherly said. "It wasn’t about us winning or losing, it was about what he said, to use it was completely tasteless and disrespectful."
Featherly says his main concern is his students, and that, "they’re a great team. They’re a great group of kids."
In response to the incident, Coronado's head coach, JD Laaperi tweeted out the following message:
"Unfortunately a community member brought tortillas and distributed them which was unacceptable and racist in nature. I do not condone this behavior. Coronado High School does not condone this behavior and is already taking appropriate action."
However, Reynoso said the incident started after an argument with that coach over disrespectful comments after the loss.
"He started the whole incident which got us all fired up, tried to tell him, 'You gotta learn how to win with class and dignity.'"
But an Instagram account believed to belong to the Coronado basketball team defended the "Tortilla Toss," saying it was "similar to throwing confetti at parties or a cap at the end of graduation." It continued: "There are many schools that have done this in the past such as Texas Tech, UCSB & Baylor." " It's unfortunate this act was misconstrued and the boys never would've done it if they thought it would be hurtful or offensive." The account has since been made private.
The Coronado Police Department released a statement saying they were "disturbed by the behavior of some of those attending last night's basketball game," and they were able to clear the gym within minutes of arriving. The department also said officers were able to identify the adult who brought the tortillas to the game. Officers are continuing to investigate, but ask anyone with additional information that to call (619) 522-7350 or email PDwebcontact@coronado.ca.us.
Coronado Unified School District's Superintendent, Karl J Mueller, sent the following statement to ABC 10News:
I was appalled to learn that immediately following the basketball game last night, members of our community were involved in an altercation and unsportsmanlike conduct which included throwing tortillas at our visitors from Orange Glen. This behavior is reprehensible. We cannot allow anyone in our community to be made to feel unwelcome and we send our deep and sincere apology to the Orange Glen community. The individuals who participated in these actions do not reflect our school district values. I want to make it clear that there is no place for such conduct in Coronado Unified School District. Swift action will be taken to address all those involved, and they will be held accountable. It is our hope to create opportunities to dialogue with the Orange Glen community in an attempt to repair. We are hopeful that this experience can be used as a teachable moment to educate our students on the impact of words and actions, and to reflect and learn from it to move forward to increased awareness and respect to match our high expectations.
CUSD remains steadfast in our determination to create an environment in which all students and staff feel safe, valued, and respected. We have a commitment to stand against any act of bias. We all still have important work to do in order to achieve our mission.
Karl J Mueller
Coronado Unified School District
ABC 10News also received the following statement from the CUSD School Board:
On June 19, 2021, following a championship basketball game, members of the Coronado community hurled tortillas at students from Orange Glen High School, a predominantly Latino school district. The Trustees of the Coronado Unified School District acknowledge these acts to be egregious, demeaning, and disrespectful. We fully condemn the racism, classism, and colorism which fueled the actions of the perpetrators and fully support the statement by Superintendent Mueller released earlier this morning (see below)
On behalf of the CUSD School Board, we extend a full and formal apology to the Orange Glen High School athletes, known as the Patriots, as well as their peers, parents, teachers, and staff. We have taken swift action and will convene on Tuesday, June 22, 2021, for an emergncy special meeting of the board at which time we expect to hear the initial results of ongoing investigations and consider additional actions that may be need to be taken.
Captain Lee Pontes, CUSD Board President
Ms. Esther Valdes-Clayton, CUSD Vice President
Dr. Helen Anderson Cruz, CUSD Clerk
Ms. Whitney Antrim, CUSD Member
Ms. Stacy Keszei, CUSD Member
A player from Coronado also issued the following statement on Twitter:
— Wayne Mckinney (@WayneMckinney23) June 22, 2021
The CIF said it "prohibits discrimination or any acts that are disrespectful or demeaning toward a member school, student-athlete, or school community." The CIF is currently working with the administration at both schools and will review incident reports to determine the appropriate steps to take next.