California high school stripped of basketball title after racist incident

Coronado High School was stripped of its 4A boys basketball championship Thursday following a racist act from players directed at opponents from Orange Glen High School in Escondito, a largely Latino school.

Coronado players were captured on film throwing tortillas in the air at the opposing team during their June 19 division championship win, an incident which garnered national attention. Local groups protested Coronado High, demanding the school forfeit their championship following the incident.

Video shot at the scene shows Coronado celebrating, before throwing tortillas in the air, on the court, and in the direction of the opposing team.

In addition to forfeiting the title, the school was placed on probation and cannot host any postseason games in boys basketball through 2022-23. Coach JD Laaperi was fired following the tortilla throwing.

Luke Serna, an alumnus of Coronado, a predominantly white high school, says he supplied the tortillas to be thrown and didn’t mean any ill will, as he didn’t consider the incident a racist act at the time. Serna, the former student who describes himself as “half Mexican,” says he was bringing a UC Santa Barbara celebration to his alma mater, where it’s common to throw tortillas on the basketball court following Gaucho victories.

“I realize the tortilla throwing has been perceived as racially insensitive,” Serna wrote. “I do not condone racially insensitive behavior, and that was not my intent. I apologize to all who were hurt by this and hope it can be a teaching moment for us all to become more conscious.”

However, the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) weren’t willing to turn a blind eye to the incident, especially following condemnation from numerous latino groups in the area. Explaining the decision to strip Coronado of the title, the CIF said the decision “reiterates that discriminatory and racially insensitive behaviors toward an opponent contravene the principles of education-based athletics.”

Despite Serna throwing into doubt the decision behind throwing the tortillas, and reiterating that it was not intended to be racist, the CIF understood the impression the moment gave to the community. “In this instance, there is no doubt the act of throwing tortillas at a predominately Latino team is unacceptable and warrants sanctions.”

Coronado High School has said it’s reviewing the CIF’s decision and hiring an outside investigator.

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