A high school basketball game in California ended in xenophobic taunts by fans of one school who chanted, “Where’s your passport,” at their rivals — a team with players from Puerto Rico and France.
In the closing seconds of host St. Joseph High School’s 74-57 victory over Righetti High in Santa Maria on Tuesday night, students from the visiting school chanted: “Where’s your passport, where’s your passport?!”
The taunts were captured on a video that was posted on Twitter by Santa Maria Times sports editor Joe Bailey.
St. Joseph Principal ErinnDougherty is seen on the video making a beeline for the Righetti student section to angrily confront the teens.
Dougherty appears to be met by an equally angry Righetti administrator, who gestures at her to back off before she is led away.
A spokesman for the Santa Maria Joint Union High School District, which includes Righetti, said Wednesday that students “from both sides” behaved badly.
“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 district statement said. “The incident is being addressed” by district and Righetti officials.
St. Joseph is overseen by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, which did not immediately respond to requests for comment Thursday about the allegation that the Catholic school’s students also behaved poorly.
The archdiocese said in a statement on behalf of St. Joseph, “We do not tolerate any type of inappropriate statements made at any student especially if they could be interpreted as disrespectful. We hope that this can be a lesson in sportsmanship and mutual respect for students from both schools.”
“We are disappointed about the way the boys basketball game against Righetti High School ended on Tuesday night,” the archdiocese said.
Both schools have large Latino populations
The St. Joseph team features one player from France and three from Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory where passports are not required for travel.
The school’s principal, Dougherty, told the Lompoc Record on Wednesday that she could have done a better job keeping her cool after the taunts.
“I’ve made mistakes and I probably made a mistake charging over there,” Dougherty said. “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 two schools are virtually across the street from each other, about 150 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles.
Suzanne Ciechalski contributed.