A video has gone viral of students at a California High School chanting a xenophobic phrase during a basketball game. Righetti High School students were taunting the St. Joseph High School basketball team, which has three players from Puerto Rico, which is a U.S. territory, and one from France, according to the Santa Maria Times.
The video, from Tuesday night’s game, has been viewed over 120,000 times. The user who posted the clip wrote, “kind of a disappointing ending to a good game as the visiting student section chanted ‘where’s your passport?’ apparently targeted toward the SJHS players. Administrators from both schools exchanged words, leading to a charged atmosphere throughout the contest. #santamariatimes.”
St. Joseph High School coach Tom Mott said he does not believe the children were trying to be offensive saying, “I honestly think they were unaware they said a racist thing. They did not intend for it to be racist.”
St. Joseph’s principal Erinn Dougherty was briefly seen on video walking toward the Righetti students and shouting at them while they chanted. She released a statement on Wednesday essentially agreeing with Mott.
“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. 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 did say the chants “bothered a few of the players.”
No one from Righetti High commented on the video but Santa Maria Joint Union High School District spokesman Kenny Klein released the following statement, “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 incident is being addressed by SMJUHSD and RHS school officials. We have no further comment at this time.”
It’s not clear what the “unacceptable comments” were from St. Joseph High School.