Man claiming to be half-Mexican admits bringing tortillas to high school basketball game, says stunt not racially motivated

A Southern California man who brought tortillas to a high school basketball game and threw them in the air says there was no “racial intent” behind the stunt.

“There was not a shred of ill-intent or racial animus in carrying out this celebratory action,” wrote Luke Serna, who told local media outlets that he’s half-Mexican. “Those who have enflamed this issue into a racially charged issue should be utterly ASHAMED of themselves. The people who have fallen for this frame-up to smear Coach Laaperi are not worthy of being any part of the discussion regarding this event as it is their intent to try and fan the flames of racism where none existed.”

“I realize the tortilla throwing has been perceived as racially insensitive. I do not condone racially insensitive behavior, and that was not my intent. I apologize to all who were hurt by this and hope it can be a teaching moment for us all to become more conscious,” he added.

“A video of the aftermath of the Coronado Orange Glen championship game clearly shows that players were among the folks who threw tortillas at the Orange Glen players and staff. I’m beyond disappointed,” a Twitter user wrote along with a video of the incident.

Serna said he brought the tortillas to the game to mimic a tradition UC Santa Barbara had done at different sporting events where they would be tossed onto the court if the team had won. In a letter to the Coronado Unified Governing Board, he argued that his actions were not racist despite what others have said.

The Coronado school board apologized to the Orange Glen school community, acknowledging the act as “egregious, demeaning, and disrespectful.”

J.D. Laaperi was removed as the Coronado basketball team’s head coach after the incident due to allegedly cursing at the opposing team’s coach, which is said to have sparked the scuffle in the first place according to the San Diego Union-Tribune

According to the UC Santa Barbara alumni page, tortilla throwing after the team scored their first point became a tradition in the 1990’s. However, some fans got carried away tossing so many tortillas onto the court that the games would have to be stopped.

“UC Santa Barbara fans engaged in the act as a playful way to show team support and exude school spirit; however, as the tradition caught on, many people got carried away. At one basketball game in 1997, fans threw tortillas constantly throughout the game so that the stadium floor was covered and the game had to be stopped,” the alumni site reads.

“Other controversial incidents include fans throwing tortillas in opposing team members’ faces, tortilla scraps getting inside and ruining an ESPN camera, and associations of the act with racist ideology. As a result, tortilla throwing has been banned from basketball games at the Thunderdome, but despite the setback, persistent fans still carry out the tradition during soccer games at Harder Stadium,” the site adds.

Francine Maxwell, president of the San Diego Branch of the NAACP, said those who threw tortillas committed “racist actions that do not represent San Diego nor the America we want all people to love value, and appreciate.”