On Tuesday night, a California high school basketball game ended with chants of “Where’s your passport?”
While some may raise eyebrows at what could be considered a racially charged display, school officials are brushing aside the notion, saying that the students had no ill intent.
According to the Santa Maria Times, the incident occurred during a game between St. Joseph High School and Righetti High School. It was actually the Righetti student section that chanted out the controversial words as the clock ran out at the game, which St. Joseph, the home team in this scenario, won.
However, St. Joseph coach Tom Mott didn’t believe that the Righetti students meant any harm.
“I honestly think they were unaware they said a racist thing,” Mott told the Times. “They did not intend for it to be racist.”
St. Joseph does have three players from Puerto Rico (which is a U.S. territory) and one player from France.
St. Joseph Principal Erinn Dougherty also echoed Mott’s sentiments, although she was captured on video shouting at Righetti students, before turning to their assistant principal, Ted Lyon, for what the Times described as a heated exchange.
“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 said. “Not just the St. Joe students but the whole community. I think they were good kids who didn’t realize what they were saying.”
“I’ve made mistakes and I probably made a mistake charging over there,” she added. “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 said that “both sides” made “unacceptable comments” and said that the incident was being addressed by their individual school officials, declining to comment further.
“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 school district said in a statement. “The incident is being addressed by SMJUHSD and RHS school officials. We have no further comment at this time.”