A new bill aimed at stopping racism at high school sporting events in California will be heard by the Education Committee in the Assembly on Wednesday. Assembly Bill 1327, introduced by Assemblymember Akilah Weber, would require the California Interscholastic Federation to develop a standardized incident form to track racial discrimination and harassment at high school sporting events. Sponsors of the bill hope that it might provide more accountability for schools that might have issues that are not being addressed.
"We want our kids to play sports, we want them to be not only mentally active but physically active and learn the importance of working together as a team to achieve a goal. The last thing that our students need to deal with on top of all of that is racism," Assemblymember Weber said.
San Diego was in the national spotlight in 2021 because of two racist incidents at high school sporting events.
The first after a photo surfaced showing Cathedral Catholic High School students wearing t-shirts that read "Catholics versus Convicts" and a caption saying "We run this city," before a scheduled football game with Lincoln High School, a predominantly low-income, majority-minority high school.
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Head football coach for Lincoln High School, David Dunn, said he chose to forfeit the game against Cathedral Catholic last year after seeing one of his student-athletes crying.
"He wasn’t upset that we lost the contest, he was upset that they were calling him racial slurs during the contest and he wanted to act, he wanted to defend himself and he didn't know how and I couldn’t protect him," Dunn said.
Dunn grew up in San Diego and played football at Lincoln High School rival, Morse before he went on to have a successful career in the NFL. He says he remembers racism in high school sports in San Diego when he played, but he says it's sad that its still impacts his student-athletes today.
"Trying to prepare our student-athletes to play in a game is already a task that takes countless hours to do, a lot of preparation, but when we have to prepare our kids to potentially face racial comments, being stepped on, being spat at, being antagonized, being called out of their name during a contest in certain areas of the city that’s a whole other ballgame," he said.
Not long after the Catholic Cathedral High School incident, Coronado High School came under fire after tortillas were flung at their opponents during a regional basketball championship game against Orange Glen High School from Escondido — a predominantly Latino high school. Jeff Harper-Harris, the basketball coach for Lincoln High School says he hopes Assembly Bill 1327 will allow athletes to focus on the game.
"My end game is that I want my kids from Lincoln High School to be able to go play the kids in La Jolla, go up north of the 805, play a basketball game that has nothing to do with race, you win, you win, you lose, you walk out of there, you still shake hands," he said.
The bill will be heard in the education committee of the California Assembly on Wednesday.