The dust is settling following a tortilla-throwing incident at the end of a local high school basketball game -- players from a predominantly white high school are accused of throwing tortillas at the opposing, predominantly Latino team in victory -- and now the focus is turning to who will be held accountable, and how.
The incident followed a regional CIF championship game between Coronado High School and Orange Glen High School. After the final buzzer sounded and the two teams shook hands, players from Coronado, the winning team, threw tortillas at the visiting team as they told them to get out of their gym, according to Orange Glen coaches.
Video of the incident spread quickly on social media and garnered a lot of attention from the San Diego prep sports community and beyond.
The CIF and the Coronado Police Department are investigating the incident. Meanwhile, the Coronado Unified School District has called an emergency board meeting for Tuesday at 5 p.m. and is expected to discuss details of the incident and consequences for those involved. The Escondido Union School District is expected to hold a meeting of its own Tuesday.
Orange Glen players and coaches told NBC 7 tension from the high-energy game boiled over when the game clock had elapsed and the two teams were preparing to shake hands.
“The [Coronado] 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.
In a Twitter post, Coronado head coach J.D. Laaperi wrote, "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."
A 12-year Coronado resident staged a one-woman protest at the campus Tuesday in response to the incident.
"I just came from my physical therapy but it bothered me enough to go home and make this sign," said the woman who only wanted to be identified as Lelea.
Her sign read, "Shame on you Coronado HS racist basketball team."
The incident is getting attention from national groups like the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC). LULAC's Vice President of Young Adults Andres Rodriguez said the incident wasn't a heat of the moment exchange, but was planned.
"This took preparation, this took actually getting people together to buy the tortillas, to distribute them, and pretty much in unison throwing them at the Latino players," Rodriguez said.
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,” Orange Glen player Christian Martinez said. “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.
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 a verbal exchange before the tortillas were thrown. NBC 7 has not yet heard back from the district about that matter.
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.
The Coronado 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.