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High school stripped of basketball title over tortilla-throwing incident

Published: Jul. 1, 2021 at 8:27 AM CDT
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CORONADO, Calif. (AP) — The governing body for high school sports in California on Wednesday stripped a Southern California high school of its basketball division championship after some of its players threw tortillas at the opposing team, which was from a largely Latino school.

Coronado High School will lose its boys Division 4-A regional championship because of the “degrading and demeaning behavior” following the June 19 division championship game, according to a statement from the California Interscholastic Federation.

At least two students from mostly white Coronado High were captured on video throwing tortillas into the air toward the other team after a 60-57 victory over Orange Glen High School of Escondido.

The incident followed a squabble between coaching staff from both schools. It received national attention and prompted several investigations.

The Coronado Unified School Board voted unanimously to fire coach JD Laaperi following the incident, and district Superintendent Karl Mueller issued a public apology.

A Coronado High alumnus who provided the tortillas to players said throwing them was a tradition at a college he attended, the University of California, Santa Barbara. Luke Serna said he is of half-Mexican descent and that there was “absolutely no racial intent behind that action,” the San Diego Union-Tribune reported.

But the California Interscholastic Federation statement said its state executive director “reiterates that discriminatory and racially insensitive behaviors toward an opponent contravene the principles of education-based athletics.”

“In this instance, there is no doubt the act of throwing tortillas at a predominately Latino team is unacceptable and warrants sanctions,” the statement said.

Mueller said Wednesday the school is reviewing the federation’s sanctions and will decide whether to appeal them.

“We have also retained an outside investigator to thoroughly review the incident, which will guide any additional corrective actions,” Mueller’s statement said.

In addition to vacating the regional championship, the governing board placed Coronado High on probation for the next three school years and said the school’s boys basketball team can’t host postseason contests at the sectional, regional or state level through the 2022-2023 school years.

For all other school sports teams, administrators, athletes, coaches and athletic directors must take a “sportsmanship workshop” before being allowed to host postseason contests, the board said. The workshop must include racial and cultural sensitivity training. And school administrators and athletic directors must undergo “game management training.”

The board also recommended that both schools work together to offer restorative justice opportunities for students.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.