Hispanic Coronado High alumnus says he brought tortillas to ‘help the team celebrate if they won’
CORONADO (KUSI) – Luke Serna has publicly admitted to being the person who brought the tortillas to the championship basketball game between Coronado and Orange Glen. He posted a series of tweets explaining he had no racist motive, but “was strictly wanting to help the team celebrate if they won.”
Serna himself is Hispanic, and graduated from Coronado High School in 1999. He then attended and graduated from the University of Santa Barbara, where tortilla tosses were a traditional celebration for championships.
Many other universities across the country hold or have held tortilla tosses as a celebratory tradition, since they can easily be thrown like frisbees to travel long distances. Baylor, Michigan, Cal Poly, and Texas Tech are just a few of the major universities that have traditional tortilla tosses.
In another tweet, Serna says he supplied all this information to the Coronado Union School Board before their Tuesday meeting, “but they seemed to feel the need to withhold it.”
KUSI has reached out to the Coronado Unified School District asking why they withheld this information from the public, but have yet to hear back.
After the Coronado Unified Trustees closed-door board meeting on Tuesday, they announced the release of head basketball coach JD Laaperi, who is also a elementary teacher in the district.
During the meeting, members of the Coronado community gave public comment, condemning the leaders for rushing to judgment, without conducting an investigation first.
Jim Fabrizak, who has had multiple children attend Coronado Unified, said punishment should not be decided until the investigation is finished.
“In the events of Saturday night, it was surprising to me, at least, that the superintendent had already made a decision that our students were guilty, by late Saturday night early Sunday morning,” Fabrizak said. “The correspondence to all members of Coronado was to me, reprehensible without a full investigation first.”
His son attended Saturday night’s basketball game and knows people who were approached by the person handing out tortillas.
“One of these friends were cheerleaders. They were given bags by this individual. They looked at him and they knew that it was wrong,” Fabrizak said. “They left those bags on the court itself. Those girls did the right thing, but we can’t also dismiss there were some tortillas that were tossed. That’s on video.”
He felt the fallout from Saturday night’s game should be handled between Escondido Unified and Coronado Unified School Districts, and that the entire account of what happened, including the fight between coaches should be included.
“To take a five-second snapshot of something that occurred and to assign the hideous labels of racism, classism, and colorism without even talking to these kids, let alone allowing all the facts to come out, was obviously premature,” Fabrizak said. “So again, don’t get me wrong that I’m dismissing the act itself, but certainly all that led up to it needs to be investigated. The whole story needs to be told.”
The captain of Coronado’s basketball team, Wayne McKinney, also spoke, explaining that the person was not associated with the team.
McKinney also apologized for the tortillas being thrown.
KUSI News obtained a letter from Coronado Athletic Director Robin Nixon to the school board, offering her resignation following Saturday’s incident. Nixon has been with the district since 2009, and was awarded Athletic Director of the Year in 2019.
Her complete letter is below:
Before the meeting tonight I just wanted to give my observations to you directly as I was there. I asked Mr. Mueller if I should be at the meeting he said no (I realize it will be closed session) but please do not hesitate to contact me or if you feel I should be there I will.
As I know you realize there was tension on both sides which mostly stemmed from the week before at the section final game played at Saints. An intentional foul in the 3rd quarter by one of their players against our best player Wayne McKinney occurred, Wayne was basically tackled to the ground. I went to Wayne but our assistant AD, Jeff Beckley, went to our bench as immediately there became words between the two benches. Mr. Beckley reported to me that the Orange Glen coach told him to shut up sit down that they were just invoking “The Jordan Rule” etc.. After the game Mr. Beckley reported to me that their head coach was in the lobby of the building and while he did not speak to him he felt that he was just waiting for our coaches to leave to start something so he hung around until finally the coach left. It took us(myself, coaches and a few players) a long time to leave the building for a variety of reasons.
A few things I have read about Saturday’s incident are not true. We did not offer them a locker room because due to COVID we have not used locker rooms all year. Sandy Dillon spoke to their coaches before the game and gave them several options, they chose to go outside which many teams do. There is a door right by the bench. We have been just sitting on the other side of the gym – we also have not used a locker room all year. We also offered them water (or where they were welcome to fill up any water bottles) and a few balls to warm-up with until their head coached arrived with theirs.
It has been reported that the “N” word was heard from their side of stands and the area of their bench to several of our players. I cannot confirm that. Fans on both sides were unruly and behavior could have been better by many.
After the game from my vantage point (which was on the court in the middle of things) the Orange Glen coaches and team came to our side, they say to shake hands, although again, due to COVID no one has been shaking hands all year. This turned into a shoving match and lots of yelling on both sides. Their coach was not using acceptable language but I also heard him say that our coach also used foul language as well- I did not hear our head coach use any foul language. At that point I was personally holding back several of their people. I don’t know if these men were assistants or what but they did identify themselves when they entered the building as being on the staff. What I saw Coach Laaperi do at this point was trying to restrain some of his assistant coaches along with some other people. As this broke out Brad Couture called the police and once the police arrived things settled down. But bottom lines lots of yelling from both sides and some shoving there were no punches thrown.
As for the real issue we are facing it is all about the tortillas. CHS grad class of 1999, Luke Serna brought the tortillas. I have sent his statement to Shane and Karl. I truly believe that he brought them in some mis-guided attempt to relive a UCSB tradition from the 90’s and early 2000’s to throw tortillas onto the floor in celebratory nature. He says he gave some to the cheerleaders who from what I am told sort of looked at him funny took them and just put them at their feet (which is where the Orange Glen fans found them). No one reported any of this to myself, Shane or Catherine who were in attendance. While I am not sure of the timing he also gave some to players on the bench. He sat in the bleachers behind our bench to watch the game along with other fans. I talked to him on the way in, he had a small backpack I thought nothing of this and he said nothing to me about what his intentions were. I believe emphatically that none of the coaching staff knew anything about this.
But the reality is that this is not an excuse for what happened. This man should have known better and the players (those that threw them) should have known better. And I cannot say with any certainty that had there been no issues at the end of the game the tortillas would not have been thrown. For the Orange Glen community their perception is their reality and rightfully so. They have every right to be angry and upset and feel as this was a racial attack against them. The coaching staff and myself understand there will be consequences from any or all of the following governing bodies; the CUSD school board, CIF, and or the City Conference, let me also offer this happened on my watch and I will resign as Athletic Director if that is what is thought to be best.
I steadfastly believe that we must learn from this so that anytime in the future our students and staff will know to pause and think. That if anything that might be considered as hateful to another human being is heard or contemplated that our students will have been taught to recognize this and act appropriately. Maybe if some of the No Place for Hate curriculum had been in place already the two – three players would have known better than to toss tortillas (or anything) at anyone.
Again please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions or concerns and I am happy to be there tonight but again was told by Karl there was no need. My cell is 619-865-3097
Thank you for your service.
Coronado High School
Physical Education Instructor