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California high school soccer game stained by ‘blatantly racist’ heckling

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(Ira L. Black/Corbis via Getty Images)

A pair of incidents of “blatantly racist” heckling during a California postseason high school soccer game on Saturday night left players, coaches and administrators furious and searching for answers, per reporting from The Sacramento Bee.

After more than 95 minutes of soccer between Oak Ridge (El Dorado Hills) and Buchanan (Clovis) in the Division I Northern California championship game, and with the penalty shootout tied at 1, Buchanan’s Daisy Torres stepped to the line. Torres, who is Hispanic, was met with what seemed to be dog-barking noises from the crowd.

After Torres missed her kick, her teammate Ciara Wilson, who is Black, stepped to the line to the sound of gorilla noises. Wilson, a Fresno State commit, converted her kick and immediately pointed the officials to the Oak Ridge stands.

“When a quiet stadium is suddenly filled with gorilla noises made toward an African-American student, I don’t know that you get any more blatantly racist,” Buchanan coach Jasara Gillette told the Bee. “It changed the atmosphere of everything. My players after that moment were visibly emotional. I’ve never experienced anything like that.”

Oak Ridge went on to win, 4-2, in the penalty shootout, but the moment was tainted by what had happened in the bleachers. Oak Ridge head coach Rino Chimienti told the Bee his players approached the Buchanan players after the game to offer support.

Oak Ridge principal Aaron Palm said he was “heartbroken” by the incidents and planned to launch an investigation to get to “the bottom of this.” He said there were too many students in the bleachers Saturday to make a determination on who committed the heckling.

“One incident doesn’t define a school, but when something like this happens, it does,” Palm told the Bee. “The words that come to mind are: Disgusted, embarrassed, saddened. We’re confident with a full investigation that we’ll be able to determine who it was. We’ll call every student that was in that section into the office, one at a time, and get to the bottom of this and hold them accountable.”

Gillette was disappointed the Oak Hill administration did not take swifter action in the moment.

“If they’re not going to identify the student, the stands should have been cleared,” Gillette told the Bee. “The administration let the team, the players and their families down. By not taking a stand, by not doing anything, it said that continuing this game is more important.. It felt like when they did nothing and didn’t come check on us, our team should’ve walked away. We should’ve made a stand right there.”