California school team hurls tortillas at Latino opponents after winning basketball game

After allegations of racism hit the winning team, many defended the act calling it a high school tradition

                            California school team hurls tortillas at Latino opponents after winning basketball game
(miguelangelortega/Getty Images)

A high school basketball game turned outrageous for players of the losing team after tortillas were hurled at them from the winners' end. Dubbed as a racist act since most members of the losing team, the Orange Glen players, are Hispanics, the incident is now being looked into by the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) and CIF-San Diego Section. 

News of this comes just a month after anoher California basketball game saw Asian-American players called the racially offensive 'c-word', parents had complained. Back in March, an Oklahoma commentator was also slammed for hurling racial slurs at a basketball team when players took the knee during the national anthem. The Orange Glen incident, although heavily criticized by all authorities, has been defended by some as a 'Tortilla Toss' tradition embraced by several high schools in the past. 


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The incident happened on the night of Saturday, June 19, when Coronado High School players beat Orange Glen, 60-57, at the CIF Southern California Boys Basketball Division 4-A Regional Championship. Lizardo Reynoso, assistant basketball coach for Escondido's Orange Glenn team told local outlet ABC 10News, "They won; we were going to take the loss the way we were supposed to." Revealing that his team had accepted the loss, Reynoso added that what happened after was unacceptable. "The players on the other team and some fans started throwing tortillas on our whole team, which, as you can see, we're predominately Hispanic and Latino, so it like, took us pretty hard," he said.

In a video obtained by the news channel, members of Coronado High can be seen hurling the tortillas at their opponent team. Describing the incident, an Orange Glen basketball player called Anthony Garibay said: "Tortillas were flying in the air at our bench and stuff. It was a great game between both teams, we both played our hearts out, and it ended in a way it shouldn't have ended. The players who obviously threw the tortillas and whoever came up with that should obviously be punished, you know, definitely not taken lightly."

(miodrag ignjatovic/Getty Images)

The losing team's coach Chris Featherly also revealed that tension was running high after a heated exchange of words between the two head coaches before the match. "It's hard enough losing a state championship. To me it was flat out a racist act — we're a school that has a high population of Hispanic and Latinos and you're taking bags of tortillas throwing it in our direction," Featherly said. "It wasn’t about us winning or losing, it was about what he said, to use it was completely tasteless and disrespectful." Featherly says his main concern is his students, and that, "they’re a great team. They’re a great group of kids."

In the wake of intense social media backlash, Coronado High's player Wayne Mckinney tweeted defending his team, explaining it was all part of a high school tradition that schools have embraced in past basketball games. After several people pointing out they were past alums and flinging tortilla post-match was never a tradition, Mckinney clarified with a reply to the original tweet saying: "I understand the frustrations & I was told something about a tradition that may have been incorrect. Orange Glen you have my sincere apologies about what happened, speaking out was to protect myself,teammates & coaches who have received death threats and hate messages against us."


Another Instagram account with the username @nadoboysbasketball had also allegedly defended Coronado High, explaining the 'Tortilla Toss', as something "similar to throwing confetti at parties or a cap at the end of graduation," reported ABC 10News. The account also noted: "There are many schools that have done this in the past such as Texas Tech, UCSB & Baylor. It's unfortunate this act was misconstrued and the boys never would've done it if they thought it would be hurtful or offensive."

Coronado's head coach, JD Laaperi, however, insisted he does not "condone" this behavior. Calling the original mastermind behind the incident a "community member", Laaperi tweeted: "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." Orange Glen's assistant Coach Reynosos however revealed the incident started after an argument with Laaperi, as the other coach had made disrespectful comments about their loss. "He started the whole incident which got us all fired up. (we) tried to tell him, 'You gotta learn how to win with class and dignity.'"


The Coronado Police Department has since released a statement saying they were "disturbed by the behavior of some of those attending last night's basketball game." They added that they were able to clear the venue within minutes of arriving, and also identify the person accused of bringing tortillas to the game. On Monday, June 21, the Coronado Unified School District Governing Board also apologized to Orange Glen and shared plans of holding a meeting on June 22 to take further calls on the incident. "The trustees of the Coronado Unified School District acknowledge these acts to be egregious, demeaning, and disrespectful. We fully condemn the racism, classism, and colorism which fueled the actions of the perpetrators,” the board said in a statement to the local FOX and ABC news channels.