On February 11, students ended a high-energy basketball game with chants of “Where’s your passport?” and a clip of the incident has created heated discussions online. This happened in Santa Maria, CA, where the home team St. Joseph’s High School beat the opponent and visiting team, Ernest Righetti High School, 74-57. When the game ended, the students from the losing team began the chant. Locals are saying there’s more to the story than meets the eye.
Kind of a disappointing ending to a good game as the visiting student section chanted “where’s your passport?”, apparently at SJHS players. Administrators from both schools exchanged words. There was a charged atmosphere throughout the contest. #santamariatimes pic.twitter.com/xCQU7J5INA
— Joe Bailey (@JBaileySMSports) February 12, 2020
When Santa Maria Times’ sports editor Joe Bailey captured the moment in a video that has over 100,000 views on Twitter, he wrote, “Kind of disappointing ending to a good game.”
Some of the players on St. Joseph’s team are from Puerto Rico and France, including the game’s leading scorer, Janielle “Jincho” Rivera, who is of Puerto Rican descent. Twitter users quickly called out the moment as racist.
Ugh, her face at the end destroyed me. Heartbroken for those students and parents on the receiving end of this abuse. Righetti students, coaches and staff in attendance need to be held responsible. Shame on them.
— Melissa Jenna Godsey (@melissajenna) February 12, 2020
I'm fucking livid. At school here in LB, we're dealing w a teacher who called kids the n word. And in Santa Maria, this. Its everywhere.
— Myriam Chingona Gurba de Serrano (@lesbrains) February 12, 2020
On a Facebook post of the video, users commented that it was “childish,” and “racist.” Others noted that Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens. Local media in Puerto Rico wrote stories earlier this week about the video.
Meanwhile, there are other social media users who are defending the students, saying Righetti is a public school while St. Joseph is private and able to recruit international students.
This clip getting lot of attention. That's the principal in green coming over to complain. It is a racist chant but Righetti of Santa Maria (purple) is mostly Hispanic so context is more about St. Joseph (green) having players from Puerto Rico & France than US politics. https://t.co/zQOabRjPlb
— Cal-Hi Sports (@CalHiSports) February 12, 2020
Students told the Santa Maria Times that some of the St. Joseph students were also yelling comments at Righetti students “about how they would be pumping their gas someday,” allegedly chanting “where’s your green card.” Righetti is known in Santa Maria as having many Hispanic students—more than St. Joseph.
St. Joseph basketball coach Tom Mott told the Santa Maria Times that he did not think the students were trying to be racist.
“I honestly think they were unaware they said a racist thing,” Mott said. “They did not intend for it to be racist.”
The local school district also shared a statement saying they’re looking into the incident.
“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.”
The video of the incident on Facebook has over one thousand comments.