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High school basketball coach ousted by California district after tortilla-throwing incident

coronado unified tortilla meeting 06222021.jpg
Posted at 11:05 AM, Jun 23, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-23 13:05:30-04

CORONADO, Calif. — Trustees of the Coronado Unified School District in California have voted to remove the head basketball coach of Coronado High School following a tortilla-throwing incident.

On Saturday night, shortly after Coronado High beat Orange Glen 60-57 at the CIF Southern California Boys Basketball Division 4-A Regional Championship, tortillas were hurled at players from Orange Glen High, a predominantly Hispanic school.

The incident sparked outrage among community members, parents, and school leaders. Tuesday night, the Coronado Unified School District held an emergency meeting to discuss the incident, where public comments were made to the board.

Coronado's team captain, Wayne McKinney, was first to comment at the public meeting, saying he truly believed his teammates did not have any racist intentions but understood the implications.

"You have to be sensitive to how they believe it looks, and throwing tortillas at a predominantly Hispanic school doesn't look good," McKinney said. "You kind of have to look at both perspectives. I'm a black man, and if I was at another school and somebody was throwing stuff that seemed racist like bananas or watermelons, I would be pretty upset."

Coronado's head coach, JD Laaperi, who was seen exchanging words with the Orange Glen staff after their win, issued an apology tweet following the incident:

"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."

Some members of the Coronado community expressed their disapproval of the District and Superintendent. They said they were too quick to issue their statement Sunday condemning the tortilla incident without knowing the full story.

"Sir, you jumped the gun. You caused a myriad of issues for our boys, including death threats," Marie C. said, pointing at Board President Lee Pontes. "You didn't give the boys, who, by the way, just won your school district a prestigious title, the benefit of the doubt before throwing them to the wolves."

The board followed the public comment period with a closed session meeting to discuss any disciplinary measures that could be taken over the incident. Following the meeting, the school voted to release the head basketball coach.

"On item 5.1, a motion was made by Trustee Anderson-Cruz, a second was made by Trustee Antrim. A vote of 5-0 was to release our head coach," district staff told KGTV.

Orange Glen's assistant basketball coach Brian Gallo attended the meeting and waited until the end of the closed session to find out the outcome of the vote. He believed they did the right thing.

"It's unfortunate," Gallo said. "You never want to see anyone lose their job, but I think when you're a leader of student-athletes, of young men, and you conduct yourself in that matter, I don't think there's any place for that."

District staff said the CIF and Coronado Police Department's full investigations could take up to three weeks.

Watch video of the public comments in the player below:

This story was originally published by Zac Self and Rina Nakano at KGTV.