A California high school basketball game ended with students from one school erupting into a chant of “Where’s your passport?” as the opposing team’s principal angrily confronts them.
The chant erupted at the conclusion of the contest between St. Joseph High School, a private school, and Righetti High, a public school located across the street in Santa Maria, according to the Santa Maria Times.
Supporters from Righetti High, the visiting team who lost 74-57, started the taunt in the final seconds of the game, according to video captured by the paper’s sports editor and posted to Twitter.
Despite the words from Righetti High students, St. Joseph basketball coach Tom Mott told the paper he felt the chant from the rival fans was not racially motivated.
“I honestly think they were unaware they said a racist thing,” Mott said. “They did not intend for it to be racist.”
Three players on St. Joseph’s are from Puerto Rico — a US territory — and one is from France, the report said.
Mott did say, however, that “it’s just sad that kids who are 15, 16, or 17-years-old are called out for what they look like or where they’re from.”
Erinn Dougherty, the St. Joseph’s principal who stormed over to condemn the Righetti High student section after the game ended, referred to the chant as “racially-charged rhetoric,” but said she didn’t feel the students realized “what they were saying.”
“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.
“Not just the St. Joe students but the whole community. I think they were good kids who didn’t realize what they were saying.”
Dougherty also expressed regret for how she reacted.
“I’ve made mistakes and I probably made a mistake charging over there,” she said.
“All I can say is that I wished that I hadn’t scolded another administrator’s students. Obviously, that had upset him, but I was in the mode of taking care of kids.”