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California High School Basketball Coach Fired After Players Hurl Tortillas At Opposing Team

California High School Basketball Coach Fired After Players Hurl Tortillas At Opposing Team
CBS 8 San Diego/YouTube

A basketball coach from a San Diego-area high school in California was fired on Tuesday over an incident during Saturday's game involving at least two people hurling tortillas at a rival team.

Many are calling the tortilla-throwing at a team of mostly Latino players an act of racism.

Saturday's controversial incident followed a dispute between coaching staff from both teams after Coronado High School beat visiting team Orange Glen High School from Escondido 60-57 in overtime in a division championship game.

The players on the Coronado team are mostly White. The Orange Glen team is predominantly Latino.

According to CBS8, the Coronado Unified School District board voted 5 - 0 on Tuesday night to fire Coronado High's head basketball coach JD Laaperi.

The Coronado Police Department has not publicly identified the suspect who initially hurled the tortillas at Orange Glen fans and players, but they did say the person who brought the tortillas to the game was an adult male.

You can watch the news report, here:

Angry parents and members of the community gathered at Tuesday's closed emergency meeting urging the Coronado Unified School Board to take swift action over the racist incident that sparked outrage across San Diego County.

The board did not take any disciplinary action against the student players, but a unanimous decision was made to terminate coach Laaperi.

According to witnesses, Laaperi was heard telling off an Orange Glen coach after the game by using expletives.

He allegedly told the other coach:

"That's why you don't talk (expletive). Get your kids and get the (expletive) out of here."

The altercation is what supposedly led to—as seen in the video circulating on social media—at least two team members hurling tortillas at the other team.

Leading up to the vote at the board meeting, parents, students, and others from the community spoke out.

Board trustee Esther Valdez Clayton said:

"We don't need anybody to explain anything else to us. We know what we saw and that it hurt."

Community activist Enrique Morones, the founder of Gente Unida, said:

"These weren't just two tortillas.. these were bombs of racism."

Coronado's team captain Wayne McKinney claimed there was no animosity of any kind towards the Orange Glen players.

He said:

"However, throwing the tortillas after the game was unsportsmanlike, and on behalf of the team we apologize for that act."

According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, McKinney downplayed the incident and believed it was not an act of bigotry.

"It was not based on race or class; it was simply a great game between two teams."
"I think many people are making Saturday out to be something it was not."

But during the meeting, Coronado school trustee Whitney Antrim maintained:

"Even if they were not intended as racist, we cannot ignore that our guests, these children who played their hearts out for a championship, felt attacked because they were Hispanic."

A parent of one of the Orange Glen players believed the coach was responsible for what happened out on the court.

"He created the chaos that led to this incident."
"I am not convinced that it wasn't staged."

On Saturday before his firing, Laaperi tweeted, "a community member brought the tortillas and distributed them which was unacceptable and racist in nature."

He added:

"I do not condone this behavior."
"Coronado High School does not condone this behavior and is already taking appropriate action."

Three separate investigations are currently underway—including by both school districts along with Coronado police and the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF).