A team of Black and Latino high school soccer players were heckled by a racist crowd member who taunted them with barking and monkey noises during a championship game.
On Saturday, NBC News reports, players of Buchanan High School of Clovis and Oak Ridge High School of El Dorado Hills stepped onto the field for the Northern California championship game, but after a penalty kick shootout during the “high-pressure game,” Buchanan girls soccer head coach Jasara Gillette said heckling started 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,” or penalty kick, Gillette said.
“The player before her who is Hispanic was also barked at.”
The statement further said that the racist heckling came from “one individual in the Oak Ridge side of the stands.”
Oak Ridge principal Aaron Palm said he was “heartbroken” by the heckling, The Sacramento Bee reports.
“One incident doesn’t define a school, but when something like this happens, it does,” Palm said. “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 continued to blast the “blatantly racist” encounter.
“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,” Gillette said.
“It changed the atmosphere of everything. My players, after that moment, were visibly emotional. I’ve never experienced anything like that.”
Palm confirmed that he reached out to Gillette and personally apologized on behalf of his school.
“We can’t make it right, but we need to do anything we can to try. There is no winner here,” he said. “We walked off the field with a win, but not really.”