By Ben Kesslen
A high school basketball official in Arizona was fired after he asked prior to a game whether players from a majority-Latino school district had their green cards, school district officials said.
The basketball official, whose name has not been released, lost his job Wednesday after making the comment during a half-court huddle before a game Tuesday in Sahuarita, south of Tucson, officials said.
The game at Walden Grove High School was against a visiting team from Pueblo High in Tucson, a school that, according to U.S. News & World Report, has a nearly 90 percent Latino student body.
Herman House, interscholastics director for the Tucson district, said the Pueblo High athletic director told him Wednesday morning of complaints from parents that this official had allegedly made this inappropriate statement.
When the official made the green-cards remark, another basketball official, surprised, asked if he was joking, House said.
“I asked for the school to get me statements from everyone who had heard the conversation or had knowledge of the conversation,” House told NBC News, adding that he also alerted state athletics officials of the claims but they already knew and had taken action by firing the official.
“We reacted quickly,” Brian Gessner of the Arizona Interscholastic Association told NBC News. “We did our due diligence. We talked to parents, talked to administrators, and talked to officials.”
The basketball official “admitted to making an inappropriate comment,” Gessner said. “He was dismissed as an official,” and no longer has assignments with the state association.
“We obviously hold our officiating community to a higher standard and we don’t tolerate that type of behavior,” he said.
The Sahuarita school district that hosted Pueblo High at the game said in a statement, “We are disappointed that any action or remark would detract” from positive experiences for students.
Ben Kesslen writes for NBC News.