Black and Latino soccer players were heckled with monkey noises and barking during a championship game in California — behavior condemned by the state’s high school sports governing body as “unacceptable” and the players’ coach as “blatant racism.”
The jeers took place Saturday during the Northern California championship between Buchanan High School in Clovis and Oak Ridge High School in El Dorado Hills.
The “high-pressure game” resulted in a penalty shootout, Buchanan girls soccer head coach Jasara Gillette said in a statement, and that’s when the heckling was heard coming from the stands.
“Our third kicker, who is of African American descent, was subjected to monkey noises and gestures that came from the Oak Ridge stand as she took her PK (penalty kick). The player before her who is Hispanic was also barked at,” Gillette said.
The harassing noises came from “one individual in the Oak Ridge side of the stands,” the El Dorado Union High School District, which oversees Oak Ridge High School, told NBC News in a statement.
Gillette called out the Oak Ridge High School administration, saying they “stood by and did nothing to address the problem. No fan was removed, and the stands were not cleared.”
Officials at Oak Ridge could not be reached for comment on Tuesday, but the school’s principal told NBC affiliate KCRA of Sacramento, California that, in the moment, “it was impossible to determine who had made the sound,” and the matter was discussed by the referees, a California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) administrator and representatives from both schools. They decided to proceed with the game, the principal, Aaron Palm, said.
Oak Ridge ended up winning the championship.
“Our players were physically and emotionally upset after the incident and were not addressed. This gave a huge competitive advantage to our opponent and directly influenced the end of the game!” Gillette said.
Palm, who said the student behind the heckling “is being held accountable,” added in a statement that the “incident disgusts our learning community and embarrasses our entire school. There is no room for this type of individual behavior anywhere in society.”
Officials have not stated what punishment the student will face, but the El Dorado Union High School District said “the school will take the full disciplinary action as allowable by Education Code.”
The district also said that Oak Ridge High School officials are in contact with Buchanan High School and CIF, the governing body for high school sports in the state, and “formal apologies are being made.”
Further, the district will have discussions about the incident in “each Oak Ridge classroom this week” to “take steps to do all we can to further prevent incidents like this from happening.”
Clovis Unified School District, which oversees Buchanan High School, said it is “outraged over racial slurs used by an Oak Ridge High School fan,” and a complaint was lodged with CIF.
Efforts to reach officials at Buchanan High School were unsuccessful Tuesday.
CIF denounced the heckling, saying in a statement that it “prohibits discrimination or any acts that are disrespectful or demeaning toward a member school, student-athlete, or school community.”
The governing body added that it is “unacceptable when those attending a game take away from all the hard work the student-athletes have put forth to participate in a championship event.”
The statement did not mention if CIF planned to take any action.