A regional CIF championship high school basketball game between Coronado and Escondido ended with the winning team throwing tortillas at its opponents in an act that is being called racist.
It was a tense game Saturday as Coronado High School and Orange Glen High School of Escondido took the court in a basketball game for the regional CIF championship.
“It was like a crowded environment, a lot of energy the entire time,” said Axel Rivera, a sophomore player at Orange Glen High School.
Coronado High School took the win by just 3 points -- 60-57 -- but instead of celebrating in good fashion, the team turned the celebration into a controversial moment that has since gone viral.
Rivera said it all started as the Orange Glen boys were walking over to the Coronado boys for the traditional post-game handshake.
“The head coach and the assistant coach came over to our bench and kind of said some words that were inappropriate and told us that we should take our kids and 'get the F out' because we were a bunch of losers,” said Lizardo Reynoso, assistant coach for Orange Glen High School.
Orange Glen head coach Chris Featherly said after that, he approached the coaches to express how inappropriate he thought their actions were.
"As we approached their bench, not physically, just kind of went over there with our choice of words, let them know how unclassy we felt that was and how disgusting, disrespectful it was to do that. Then, tortillas were being thrown in our direction," Featherly said.
"That's beyond disrespect, you're going beyond," he added.
More than 80% of the Orange Glen student body are Latino. Coronado High School's student population is majority white.
“It’s racist and it was planned,” said Andres Rivera, father of an Orange Glen player.
“For it being my last game, I think it was pretty bad,” said Christian Martinez. “You don't want to go down with an ‘L’ but also the extra stuff like the tortillas and all the smack talking with the coaches. That was really disrespectful.”
The Coronado Unified School District Governing Board addressed the incident in a letter to the Orange Glen community Monday afternoon, calling the acts "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. 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," the statement read in part.
The Governing Board added that an emergency board meeting will be held on Tuesday where the initial finding of investigations into the matter would be revealed and further actions would be considered.
On Sunday, Coronado Unified High School's Superintendent released a statement about the incident. It reads, in part:
“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.”
CIF also released a statement, reading in part:
“The CIF prohibits discrimination or any acts that are disrespectful or demeaning toward a member school, student-athlete, or school community...Upon receipt and review of incident reports from both schools, the CIF will determine the appropriate next steps.”
While the investigation is underway, parents, students, and coaches hope the Coronado High School basketball team realizes that what they did was unacceptable.
“They’ve worked hard all year, and so has Coronado, and to be overshadowed by some stupidity, it hurts," said Reynoso.
NBC 7 reached out to Coronado Unified School District regarding the basketball coach and assistant coach's alleged involvement in the verbal scuffle before the tortillas were thrown, as that was not addressed in the district's statement. NBC 7 has not yet heard back from the district about that.
According to Coronado Police, the male adult who brought the tortillas has been identified but the rest of the incident remains under investigation.
The Buzz on Social Media
The tortilla-throwing incident caused a lot of commotion on social media over the weekend, with many people saying the move was simply mean and uncalled for.
She also tweeted that if this is truly a "teaching moment," there should also be "real consequences" for the teens who are nearly adults.
"This behavior is unacceptable and reprehensible," Vargas tweeted. "The adults in the room need to do better and teach their kids/athletes better."
Gonzalez is also part of the Latino Caucus, which called the tortilla-throwing incident an act of hate and called on "the CIF to take strong action to hold the responsible students and school accountable for these hateful, violating acts.”
San Diego County Supervisor Nora Vargas also hopped on Twitter to talk about the tortilla incident, responding to Gonzalez's tweet.
Meanwhile, the City of Coronado’s Police Department posted a message on Facebook condemning the incident at the high school basketball game.
“We are extremely disturbed by the behavior of some of those attending last night’s basketball game. Their actions are completely unacceptable,” the Coronado Police Department’s Facebook post read, in part. “Coronado Unified School District has promised a full investigation into this incident.”
The investigation is ongoing; anyone with information can reach out to the Coronado Police Department at (619) 522-7350.