‘Where’s your passport?’ Video shows fans taunting California high school basketball team

·4 min read

Near the end of a heated high school basketball game in Santa Maria, Righetti High School fans taunted rival St. Joseph’s players with chants of “Where’s your passport?,” sparking a verbal exchange between administrators, video from the Santa Maria Times shows.

St. Joseph’s, a private Catholic school, has several overseas players, according to the Times, including one student from France and three from Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico is a territory of the United States.

A tweet posted Tuesday night by Santa Maria Times Sports Editor Joe Bailey shows St. Joseph’s Principal Erinn Dougherty walking toward the raucous student section, waving her arms and yelling in response to the chants.

Dougherty then retreated to the other end of the gym, appearing to break down in tears.

The rivalry game ended in a 74-57 victory for St. Joseph’s, the Mountain League’s second-place team.

The Tribune attempted to reach administrators from both schools Wednesday morning, but they didn’t respond to requests for comment.

“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,” said Kenny Klein, Righetti High School district’s spokesman, said in a statement. “The incident is being addressed by (Santa Maria Joint Unified) and (Righetti High) school officials. We have no further comment at this time.”

Emotional reaction from St. Joseph’s principal

Administrators from the schools exchanged words, the Santa Maria Times confirmed, noting a verbal back-and-forth between Dougherty and Righetti Assistant Principal Ted Lyon, who was standing near the Righetti bench.

“I did have an emotional reaction to that” chant, Dougherty told The Los Angeles Times on Wednesday. “I have an Ethiopian daughter — and all these students are my children — so it is personal to me.”

Dougherty told the Los Angeles Times the team has faced similar chants at road games, but wanted to ensure a safe environment at home.

Righetti’s student population consists of nearly three-quarters minority students, including 63% Hispanic students, according to the website www.publicschoolreview.com.

A heated moment took place earlier in the game when a St. Joseph’s player fouled a Righetti player, knocking him to the ground. The Righetti player got up and approached his opponent in a face-to-face confrontation, before they were separated.

St. Joseph’s athletic director and coach Tom Mott, who formerly worked at Mission Prep in San Luis Obispo, told the Santa Maria Times immediately after the game, “Anything our crowd or their crowd does is just part of the game.”

But he later clarified, according to the L.A. Times, that he wasn’t aware of the controversial chant at the time he spoke to the Santa Maria Times.

“Obviously, any type of inappropriate cheer by anybody isn’t something we welcome in our gym,” he told the L.A. Times. “Any type of racism, whether intended or not, has no place in our community.”

St. Joe’s coach left Mission Prep after recruiting scandal

Mott left Mission Prep after he was embroiled in controversy and charges of improper recruiting in the mid-2000s.

Mott’s successful stint as Mission Prep’s boys’ basketball coach and athletic director was halted when a school investigation into his e-mail communications revealed improper contact with Adrian Hernandez — a player who helped lead the Royals to section titles in 2005 and 2006 — before Hernandez transferred to Mission Prep from Puerto Rico.

As a result, the Royals athletic department forfeited two CIF-Central Section Division V titles and was placed on probation.

But a few years later, St. Joseph’s previous athletic director John Osborne told the San Luis Obispo Tribune in 2009 that the school was fortunate to hire Mott on.

“I’ve known (Tom) a long time, known his dad a long time ...” said Osborne in 2009. “I think we’re really fortunate to get someone of his caliber in both of those areas.”

Mott is the grandson of former Cal Poly coach and athletic department head Robert Mott (namesake of the campus’ Mott Athletics Center) and son of San Luis Obispo attorney Hank Mott.

Mott didn’t immediately respond to calls for comment about Tuesday’s incident.

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