Rafu Staff Report
SACRAMENTO – An incident at a high school basketball playoff game in Sacramento continues to reverberate in the community, long after the final buzzer.
The Feb. 25 contest between the girls of McClatchy High School and host Oak Ridge High in El Dorado Hills had plenty of drama before tip-off. McClatchy, coached by former Chapman University star and McClatchy graduate Jessica Kunisaki, knocked Oak Ridge out of last year’s playoffs en route to capturing the school’s first-ever state championship.
The desire for revenge apparently got out of hand, as several parents reported racial slurs and other inappropriate taunts coming from the Oak Ridge student cheering section and directed at McClatchy players.
Glen Kumamoto, whose daughter, Cori, is a member of the McClatchy Lady Lions, said he heard several derogatory comments hurled at the team. At least six players on McClatchy’s roster are of Asian descent.
Kumamoto contacted the school about the taunts, including chants of “soy sauce” and “go back to Fiji,” and said he witnessed gestures imitating “small eyes.”
In the days following the game – won 40-33 by Oak Ridge – Kumamoto said he brought the matter to the attention of Oak Ridge school officials, but received no response.
He then took the issue to social media and news outlets, including The Rafu Shimpo.
In a March 8 Facebook post, Kumamoto wrote: “Keep in mind that half of our team is of Asian descent. They would yell ‘soy sauce,’ ‘little eyes,’ ‘you’re ugly’ just to name a few. They even made direct ‘cheers’ to specific players on our team and called them out by name.
“If these racial taunts were made against African Americans, there would be outrage. But because they were made against Asians, nobody on the Oak Ridge staff seemed to think there was a problem. I am still furious, even a few weeks later, and I would love to escalate this to various news stations around the area but I’m not sure how to even start. Letters have been sent to the school administration to no avail.”
One day later, Kumamoto spoke with the local CBS television affiliate in Sacramento, and the story garnered wide attention.
“We’ve never been subjected to such a disgraceful, disgraceful language,” Kumamoto told CBS13 News, mentioning his family’s history of service.
“My father fought in the Second World War for this country while his family was interned in a camp, so things like this wouldn’t happen,” he said. “So his children and grandchildren wouldn’t have to be subjected to racial taunts.”
He added that body-shaming comments, such as “cankles,” were directed at several McClatchy players and cheerleaders.
Kunisaki said that her players were focused squarely on the game and were unaware of the taunts, thought she later told CBS13, “In 2016, you don’t have racism, you would hope, but you hear it all the time and I think the more awareness, the better we can solve problems.”
Some Oak Ridge students have said the “Fiji” comment was misheard, and was in fact a chant referring to one of McClatchy’s star players, Gigi Garcia, who was injured and on the bench, unable to play.
In the same Facebook post, Kumamoto included a video that makes it difficult to discern the offensive comments, but clearly shows one Oak Ridge student coming out of the cheering section to interfere with a McClatchy player who had fallen out of bounds. The student waves a hand in front of the player’s face, possibly making contact with her.
Oak Ridge later reported that the student was immediately removed from the gymnasium and was disciplined.
Another parent also contacted the school following the game, objecting not only to the inappropriate comments, but also to posters at the school calling for a “Black Out” theme for the game by the student section, known as the “O Zone.”
“I cannot believe in 2016, not one single administrator, teacher, advisor or adult in the faculty at your school did not realize the impact those words have on the African American race,” wrote the parent, adding, “As I walked past the O Zone during half time, several boys in the crowd told the [McClatchy] cheerleaders they were ugly to their faces as they walked by.”
Oak Ridge athletic director Stephen White apologized for the incident, insisting, “This is in no way how Oak Ridge wishes to be represented.”
White added that the term “Black Out” was in no way meant to imply malice toward any race, and that “For our sporting events, our student section has participated in a pink out, yellow out, blue out, white, and camo out, which all refer to T-shirt color that students will wear as a unified student section for the respective game.”
On March 10, Oak Ridge interim principal Aaron Palm responded to the parent of the fallen McClatchy player, issuing a letter to the Oak Ridge community.
“Oak Ridge High School wants to emphasize that we do not support intolerance or racism on our campus. We do not and have not ever stood for this,” Palm’s letter began. He acknowledged some of the reported insults coming from the student section, saying that his school does not tolerate “chants that are inappropriate or are directed towards an individual.”
Palm also wrote that the school had received a copy of Kumamoto’s video, and was aware of the media attention it had garnered.
Though he said at the time that no individual students had been identified as sources of the taunts, the earlier parental letter of complaint identified more than a dozen students who acknowledged some of the behavior of the O Zone.
One student was quoted as saying, “McClatchy sounds like something I would name my dog.”
In her letter to Palm, the parent also cited complaints about the O Zone from other schools and parents, adding, “I think it’s time you dismantle the cheer section. Nothing good comes from hateful words, it’s not a cheer section when its at this level.”
Members of the O Zone drafted an apology of their own, reading in part:
“On behalf of the Oak Ridge student section, the Ozone, we would like to make an apology for any inappropriate chants that were made during the Feb. 25 playoff game. Additionally, we would like to apologize for any derogatory comments that came from various students seated within the student section. These actions of a few are disappointing and not a true reflection of our student body.
“As Ozone student leaders, we care about having good sportsmanship and in showing support to all athletes in our schools. We will continue to work to better educate our peers in their participation and positive support while members of the student section.”
The El Dorado Union High School District issued a statement that said it is working to address the situation.
“It is our expectation that respect be given to all during our athletic events and apologize that this was not the case on this particular evening. The actions of those who participated in this unacceptable behavior are not a true reflection of our student body,” the statement read, in part.
Kumamoto said he has been contacted by other schools who were also victims of racial taunts while playing at Oak Ridge, and that a strict zero-tolerance of such offensive behavior is the appropriate response for the school to take.
“Asians are often overlooked or thought of being passive, so maybe they feel okay with [others] saying these things. Obviously the administration didn’t do anything to stop it. I hope it brings to light that racial slurs are not acceptable on any level and body-shaming young kids has no place in our schools and especially sporting events.”
This is in regards to the article you ran titled “Oak Ridge High School basketball spectators accused of racial taunts” where Mr. Glen Kumamoto started a fire storm based on a media campaign to prove that the Oak Ridge students were chanting racial comments to the visiting McClatchy team. I am disappointed at the Sac Bee’s level of professionalism to get to the truth. As a parent who was there, I have a few comments of my own:
• The Sac Bee took the word of the complaining parents as the truth without investigating. IF you look at Kumamoto’s posts, he is asking all parents to call the media and CIF to complain. Have you asked why they contacted CIF to handle a school issue?
• The video that Mr. Kumamoto provided proved nothing. All media outlets said that nothing racial could be heard. In fact, it showed an Oak Ridge student getting out of line and a staff member kicking him out (although it looked as if the video was edited to make it look like nothing was done). That staff member (Mr. Jackson) was with the student section the entire time. If any racial chants would have started, Mr. Jackson would have acted immediately as he did in the video Mr. Kumamoto provided.
• Mr. Kumamoto provided some of the chants he felt were racial. One example was that the kids were yelling go back to Fiji. In reality, the kids were yelling “where is Gigi” referring to McClatchy’s D1 commit who is sidelined due to a knee injury. Is it possible that he misunderstood other chants? I cannot begin to explain what he interpreted, but with all the parents/cell phones/video cameras, why wasn’t any one able to capture this on video? Even Sac Bee’s very own Joe Davidson tweeted the following: “I didn’t hear the chants or see any of the boorish behavior”. Now, I could leave it at that, but that would be tweaking the facts in our favor and I believe in reporting reality. He continued on to say “as I was locked into the game, but the Bee is looking into this”. Did the Bee really look into this? Many parents have reached out to the reporting entities, but no one seems to be interested in getting to the truth. Does the truth not sell papers as much as the headline “Oak Ridge High School basketball spectators accused of racial taunts”?
There is not one school that has 100% perfect kids. I know there are some at OR as well as McClatchy. We know we had a few kids act inappropriately at the game. It was addressed immediately (as seen in the video that Kumamoto provided) and an apology was issued. However, where the media has failed us is the lack of desire to get to the truth. McClatchy’s student body started disrespecting Oak Ridge the minute the announcer started speaking. When the Oak Ridge players were announced, all the McClatchy cheerleaders and the two buses of students turned their back. There were students who were holding signs that said “choakridge” and that was a chant that they participated in. Some would consider that threatening. In addition, the Oak Ridge cheer team, who was positioned in between the two stands, were called white trash, inbred and whores. If you had taken the time to get to the truth, both schools could have acknowledged that both need a reminder about school spirit and respect. I have tried to reach out to Mr. Kumamoto and found that he has now gone silent. I would have hoped he could have been the bigger man and acknowledge the short comings on both sides.
Where we stand right now is that we have students who feel defeated. It is no secret that Oak Ridge is struggling to rebuild due to lack of leadership. The administration was so quick to apologize without getting to the bottom of this event and to the best of my knowledge, no one from the administration was on site during this game. I am trying to be a voice for kids who are being accused of something that they did not do. I am looking for one media outlet to do the right thing and show these kids what it means to make a mistake and admit it.
This is getting ridiculous……People are reaching.
The kids were yelling where is Gigi. Thank you for mentioning that.
Each week at football games and basketball games, they pick a different color to wear. Team spirit. Who are we offending when we wear camo, gold and pink?
The video that Glen provided seems to be edited right before the teacher gets up and throws the kid out. Same teacher was there the whole time.
Can someone PLEASE provide a video of the racial chants? In the day of cell phones, not one person actually captured the chant.
Oak Ridge cheerleaders were called whores, inbred and white trash from the McClatchy student body. Love to see the McClatchy parents own their part. Get off your damn pedestal and realize the door swings both ways. Your kids were not innocent. Two wrongs don’t make a right, but your righteous BS is ridiculous.
Your team should have instantly and immediately gave those Oak Ridge players “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth” in kicking ass.
Technicals aside, they will learn very quickly that you will not be
pushed around, belittled, nor bullied.
I am sure in the very near future that your team will be more than ready
to show any other team that you will not be bullied.