SAN DIEGO (CNS) – Coronado Unified School District Superintendent Karl Mueller said that after reviewing audio and video accounts of tortillas flung at a largely Latino team when it lost a championship basketball game at Coronado High School, no evidence has turned up requiring the school to forfeit the game.
In a three-page letter sent to California Interscholastic Federation executive director Ron Nocetti on Friday, Mueller responded to calls by community activists and others for Coronado to forfeit the June 19 game in which Coronado beat Escondido’s visiting Orange Glen, 60-57, in overtime.
“In the first-person accounts, audio and video that we have reviewed to date, we have seen no evidence of antagonization by the players actions or behaviors that justify forfeiting the game,” Mueller wrote. “The young men on the court played hard, fairly, and earned the championship win.”
The tortilla-throwing incident at the California Interscholastic Federation Southern California Boys Basketball Division Regional 4-A Championship has received national attention, with investigations being conducted and public meetings held by school district boards in San Diego County.
Mueller’s letter said the district’s investigation turned up evidence of regrettable behavior by both sides.
“Numerous statements reference the actions of people representing both schools as contributing somewhat of a `powder keg’ atmosphere,” Mueller wrote. “There are allegations of inappropriate language from CHS and (Orange Glen High School) fans, coaches and players which vary in who `started it’ or was `worse’ in these interactions.”
The Coronado’s School District Board of Education held an emergency meeting Tuesday night to address the incident, when the board voted to terminate head basketball coach J.D. Laaperi.
On Wednesday, Coronado alumnus Luke Serna told FOX 5 he brought the tortillas to the game and denied that the act had a racist component. He said he was evoking a tradition at UC Santa Barbara, which he also attended.
“The tossing of tortillas is used as a celebratory action by the UC Santa Barbara Gauchos at various sporting events including basketball and soccer,” Serna said.
San Diego County’s Human Relations Commission will hold a special meeting on Monday in response to the tortilla-throwing incident. The 27-member commission is scheduled to meet at 5 p.m. via Zoom. More information on the meeting can be found here.
In a statement, the commission said it “is concerned and seriously disturbed following reports of recent hate incidents associated with the recent athletic event between Orange Glen High School and Coronado High School this past Saturday … and the related characterizations.
“The HRC stands in solidarity with our community against bias, bigotry and racism, and will continue to monitor the next steps taken by the Coronado District and the CIF office in the best interest of our county youth and our community,” the commission statement reads.
A San Diego lawmaker on Thursday called on the CIF to revoke Coronado High’s regional basketball championship in response to the incident.
“This intentional act was designed to be racist and should not now, nor ever, be tolerated,” Sen. Ben Hueso, D-Chula Vista, wrote in a letter to the sports federation’s executive director and the leaders of its San Diego chapter. “Failure to impose swift and appropriate justice will become a tacit endorsement of the act itself by the CIF and violate CIF’s own principles of ethical character-building for student athletes.”
The CIF on Thursday released its second statement regarding the incident, saying it was awaiting results of investigations by organizations that were involved.
“Upon receipt and review of the schools’ and/or school districts’ information, and further inquiry from this office if needed, the CIF will then determine what action is appropriate,” the CIF statement reads. “The CIF is in the process of concluding our review, and unless circumstances dictate otherwise, we anticipate issuing the ruling of the CIF executive director during the upcoming week.”
The Escondido Union High School District board, at a special meeting Thursday, passed a resolution denouncing racism and racial discrimination, and affirming its support for equity, safety and well-being of all students.
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