The end of a California high school basketball game turned ugly when fans began chanting “where’s your passport” at the opposing team.
A Twitter video posted by Joe Bailey, the sports editor of the Santa Maria Times, showed the Ernest Righetti High School student section chanting at crosstown rival St. Joseph High School. St. Joseph principal Erinn Dougherty can be seen crossing the court to confront the students before being pulled away at the end of Righetti’s 74-57 road win on Tuesday.
“I honestly think they were unaware they said a racist thing,” St. Joseph head coach Tom Mott said, noting that administrators from both schools will meet next week and he hopes to continue scheduling Righetti. “It’s just sad that kids who are 15-, 16-, or 17-year-old are called out for what they look like or where they’re from. ... I saw as soon as they started the chant that (Righetti athletic director and coach) Kevin (Barbarick) turned around and told them to be quiet and that’s exactly what you want your administrator to do.”
"Just because I will not allow certain xenophobic statements to be made at my campus and I don’t want racially-charged rhetoric here doesn’t mean that I don’t love and respect the students of this whole community," Dougherty told the Santa Maria Times on Wednesday. "Not just the St. Joe students but the whole community. I think they were good kids who didn’t realize what they were saying.”
The schools are located across the street from each other, a typically fun rivalry that got out of hand.
“It’s pretty common you know,” Righetti student Damian Perez told the Santa Maria Times. “We chant, they chant, usually it goes well, but last night it was just crazy.”
According to the Santa Maria Times, the St. Joseph roster has one player from France and three from Puerto Rico. Dougherty said that she had heard from basketball players who were concerned about the Righetti game prior to Tuesday night.
“A student had come up to me, one of the players, and he had been upset after the last game,” Dougherty said. “Another student came to me (Tuesday) morning and said he was nervous about it.
“I’ve made mistakes and I probably made a mistake charging over there. I don’t want this to be damaging to somebody’s career. We can all do better. Let’s reflect on it, pray on it, and each school needs to focus on what we can do to be the best school for our kids."
The Santa Maria Joint Union High School District released a statement through spokesman Kenny Klein.
“We are aware of the unacceptable comments exchanged from both sides of the basketball court during the heated rivalry between St. Joseph and Righetti High School Tuesday night,” the statement said. “The incident is being addressed by SMJUHSD and RHS school officials. We have no further comment at this time.”