On Tuesday, Jan. 25, the Irvine City Council and members of the public spoke out to condemn targeted racial comments, subsequently overheard on video, during a Portola High School men’s basketball game against Laguna Hills High School.
The video, which was sent to Irvine Weekly by council member Anthony Kuo, filmed at Laguna Hills High School on Friday, Jan. 21, was being made for game film, and was given to Portola High School after the game.
Brian Hosokawa, president of the Portola High School Girls Basketball Booster Club, spoke with Irvine Weekly via phone on Tuesday, Jan. 25.
As a Portola High parent, and Booster President, Hosokawa said he has worked every game for more than three years, and said he was alerted of what was occurring in the stands, but said he did not hear it himself during the game.
“That video was actually filmed by Laguna Hills for game tape. I was working the tables, and people were saying that these things were being said in the crowd – I almost didn’t believe them,” he said.
Hosokawa then obtained the video after the game, adding that he was in disbelief after hearing the audio and posted the video on YouTube.
“It was like this all game, it kept going,” he said. “This isn’t like I’m heated.”
Hosokawa admitted the game included tense moments between parents, players and opposing coaches, but said he thought it was just competitive high school basketball.
“There wasn’t much [attention drawn to it] during the game. It was mostly happening in the stands — it was a basketball game. There were a couple of minor altercations.”
Hosokawa said shortly after posting the video on YouTube, he sent the video to members of the Irvine City Council.
Since then, Hosokawa says both Laguna Hills and Portola High schools have asked for the video to be taken down.
“I get an email from my school’s principal saying, ‘Laguna Hills is respectfully requesting that you take your video down, they believe that if the video gets out it will complicate their investigation,’” he said. “We want awareness — it’s 2022 and this is still happening. We want the adults to be held accountable — and these adults tried to bury it to save face.”
Speaking during the City Council meeting in Irvine on Tuesday, Hosokawa was joined by other Portola High School parents, including Sabrina Brown, the mother of a Portola athlete targeted in the attack.
Many voiced concern over what occurred, and urged both the Irvine Unified School District, the Saddleback Valley School District, along with the CIF to investigate the culture at Laguna Hills.
Prior to public comment, Irvine City Council member Anthony Kuo shared the video during the council meeting. Kuo said he felt the video was unnerving and aggravating and emphasized the city would not tolerate this type of behavior.
“We want our community to know that when someone comes after one of our own, we’re going to defend that person with the force of Irvine,” he said prior to airing the short clip. “I hope anyone watching this clip finds, develops, the courage and the fortitude to turn around and tell anyone who is going to conduct themselves in such a disgusting, uncivilized and uneducated way – you tell them you zip it, or I’m going to come zip it for you.”
Dr. Crystal Turner, Superintendent of the Saddleback Valley Unified School District, issued a statement emphasizing that after a review of the incident, it was determined a Laguna Hills High School student was responsible.
“The language and connotations expressed by the words used do not represent the culture, attitudes, or feelings of the students and staff of LHHS, nor those of Saddleback Valley Unified School District (SVUSD),” the statement read. “LHHS is taking action. The student has been counseled, and immediate, appropriate consequences and discipline have taken place. Bystander students have been advised regarding their responsibility to redirect such language and report it to school administration immediately.”
Sabrina Brown, the mother of the Portola High School basketball player addressed the council on Tuesday, thanking the public for their support.
However, Brown offered a chilling reminder that what occurred on Friday made her family feel unsafe, simply by being on a school campus during a basketball game.
“My family was guarded, uneasy and on-alert, well before the video surfaced. Call it Black intuition, maybe it’s PTSD, but either way, we knew something didn’t feel right,” Brown said. “The thing that saddens me the most is that my son says he has very little optimism that us taking a stand will do anything — please do your part and show him he’s wrong.”