The Arizona Interscholastic Association banished an unnamed high school basketball referee from returning to the court this week after he allegedly made a racist comment at a game Tuesday.
“We acted quickly,” AIA spokesman Brian Gessner told NBC. “We did our due diligence. We talked to parents, talked to administrators, and talked to officials.”
Gessner said the official “admitted to making an inappropriate comment and was dismissed.”
“We obviously hold our officiating community to a higher standard and we don’t tolerate that type of behavior,” he said.
Witnesses allege the referee huddled with coaches and officials ahead of the tip-off between the freshman teams at Walden Grove High School and Pueblo High School, which is 90 percent Hispanic. During the huddle, the official alleged asked the Pueblo High School coach whether is players have their green cards, the Arizona Daily Star reports.
The director for interscholastics at the Tucson Unified School District, Herman House, reported the comment to the AIA Wednesday morning but the agency was already investigating.
The incident also went viral on Facebook, where a mother of one of the Pueblo players, Patricia Coleman, wrote about the incident. Coleman told the Star “most of the boys had never witnessed or been involved in this type of racism.”
“Breaks my heart that they had to be a part of this ugliness,” she said.
Pueblo High School is located in a mostly Hispanic area of Tucson and
District officials issued a statement about the incident this week, as Pueblo’s athletic director Brandon Sanders investigated the incident.
“We are disappointed that any action or remark would detract” from what’s supposed to be a positive experience for students, the statement read.
Gessner told the Star the official told the AIA his comment was an attempt at humor directed toward Pueblo High’s coach, but the AIA fired him nonetheless.
The AIA would not identify the official, but said he had been a referee for the association for four years.
Seth Polansky, Sports Information Director for the AIA, told Tucson News Now the referee said he knew the coach worked for Border Patrol. However, Pueblo Athletic Director Brandon Sanders said the coach does not.
The Sahuarita school district that hosted Pueblo High issued a statement condemning the official’s behavior.
“We are disappointed that any action or remark would detract” from what’s expected to be a positive experience for students, the statement read.
Pueblo High Principal Frank Rosthenhausler told KOLD he spoke with freshman players at practice Wednesday to offer his take on the situation.
“They emanated character when someone lost theirs,” he said.