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San Diego lawmaker announces bill to address racism in high school sports

A San Diego lawmaker is taking action to try to address racism in high school sports. KPBS reporter Jacob Aere says it’s a response to incidents at San Diego County games that grabbed the national spotlight.

High school sports bring out lots of big emotions, both on the court and in the stands.

Sometimes they bring out the ugly side of people, including racist comments and actions.

Lincoln High School in Southeast San Diego felt this issue first-hand less than two years ago.


“We've been trained to accept it, and that's not okay," Lincoln football coach David Dunn said. "There's no place for racism in sports or anything else.”

The school was on the receiving end of racially charged messaging on T-shirts and social media posts by some Cathedral Catholic High School students in 2021.

“When we have to prepare our kids to potentially face racial comments — being stepped on, being spat at, being antagonized, being called out of their name during a contest in certain areas of the city — that's a whole other ballgame,” Dunn said.

Around the same time in 2021, a tortilla-throwing incident targeted at a mostly Latino team from Escondido’s Orange Glen High School rocked the local high school sports scene. It eventually led to sanctions against Coronado High School.

Assemblymember Akilah Weber, D-San Diego, is looking to change those types of scenarios with Assembly Bill 1327, which is sponsored by the California-Hawaii NAACP.


“This bill ensures that these incidents are reported and tracked, and the public and legislature are made aware of these every time they occur,” she said.

The bill would require the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) to work alongside community organizations and develop a standardized incident form to track racial discrimination or harassment that occurs at high school sporting games or events.

The CIF would also have to post results annually on its website.

Lincoln basketball coach Jeff Harper-Harris said these types of incidents frequently happen, on and off the court.

“I got four basketball players in the car. I get pulled over because the officer says it looks like we're casing the neighborhood — there's robberies,” he said, describing an incident before a game in La Jolla. “Now that incident with our kids in the car turned over to the basketball game.”

He said the racism he and his players endure affects their play and causes psychological trauma.

“My end-game is for my kids to be able to play at Lincoln High School and go play La Jolla, go up north of 805, play a basketball game that has nothing to do with race,” Harper-Harris said. “You win, you lose, you walk out of there — you still shake hands.”

The bill will also require the CIF to report to the appropriate policy committees of the Legislature and the governor on its evaluation and accountability activities undertaken every three years.

AB 1327 is set for a hearing in the Assembly Education Committee on Wednesday, April 26. It would go into effect Jan. 1, 2024, if it makes it through the legislative process and is signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom.