Basketball Coach Is Fired After Tortillas Are Tossed at Visiting Team

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Students at Coronado High School, near San Diego, threw the tortillas at players from the predominantly Latino Orange Glen High School on Saturday.

Johnny Diaz

Published June 23, 2021Updated June 24, 2021, 4:00 a.m. ET

The head basketball coach at a San Diego-area high school has been fired after students threw tortillas at a visiting team from a predominantly Latino school over the weekend, a display that the district’s superintendent said was “reprehensible.”

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The Coronado Unified School District’s board voted unanimously at a special meeting on Tuesday to fire the coach, J.D. Laaperi, the district confirmed in an email. The board voted behind closed doors and its members did not comment afterward, The San Diego Union-Tribune reported. A district official declined to comment when reached on Wednesday

The board met three days after a regional championship game on Saturday night between Coronado High School and Orange Glen High School, which Coronado won 60 to 57 in overtime. After the game, at least two Coronado students hurled tortillas at members of the team from the predominantly Latino Orange Glen school, according to cellphone video that circulated widely online.

“I think it was pretty bad,” Christian Martinez, an Orange Glen player, told NBC 7 San Diego, adding, “That was really disrespectful.”

The Coronado Police Department, which responded to help clear the gym, said it had identified the man who brought the tortillas to the game. The case has been assigned to the department’s investigative unit, said Lea Corbin, a spokeswoman.

In a letter on Sunday Karl Mueller, the Coronado district superintendent, apologized to “the Orange Glen community.” He described the conduct as “unsportsmanlike” and said the “behavior is reprehensible.”

“Swift action will be taken to address all those involved, and they will be held accountable,” he added.

In a second letter, on Tuesday, Mr. Mueller said that the district was working with the Escondido Union High School District, which includes Orange Glen High School, to bring students together “to learn and heal.”

“We will use this experience as an instrument to reflect, learn and move forward,” he said.

Mr. Laaperi did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Wednesday. He condemned the behavior on Twitter on Sunday.

“Unfortunately a community member brought tortillas and distributed them which was unacceptable and racist in nature,” he wrote. “I do not condone this behavior. Coronado High School does not condone this behavior and is already taking appropriate action.”

Lorena Gonzalez, a California assemblywoman, said that Coronado High School “should be sanctioned” by the California Interscholastic Federation, the state’s governing body for high school sports, “or stripped of their championship.”

“We should have universal condemnation of this activity,” she said on Twitter. Parents in San Diego County, she added, “know that racist taunts against Latino athletes are too commonplace.”

“It’s time to stop it,” she said.

Nora Vargas, a San Diego County supervisor, said the behavior was “unacceptable and reprehensible,” adding that “the adults in the room need to do better and teach their kids/athletes better.”

In an email, the California Interscholastic Federation said it “prohibits discrimination or any acts that are disrespectful or demeaning toward a member school, student-athlete or school community.” The organization said it was working with both school districts to address the matter.

At a news conference outside Coronado High School on Tuesday, activists said the tortilla tossing was racist and called for the students, staff members and coaches involved to be disciplined. People held signs, including a yellow one with an image of a tortilla and a message that read, “My mom taught me how to make, not throw them.”

“It was pure and blatant racism and hate,” said Enrique Morones, executive director of Gente Unida, a nonprofit that provides services to immigrants along the U.S.-Mexico border. He said that what took place on Saturday was “absolutely unacceptable.”

“Hate is not welcome on this island or anywhere,” he said, “and we need to stand up to that hate.”

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