TimesOC: Racist slurs hurled at Black basketball player

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TimesOC, a newsletter about Orange County, is published Wednesdays and Fridays.
(Los Angeles Times)

Good morning and welcome to the TimesOC newsletter.

It’s Friday, Jan. 28. I’m Ben Brazil, bringing you the latest roundup of Orange County news and events.

There was outrage this week when a video went viral showing a Laguna Hills High School student shouting racist comments at a Black high school basketball player during a game.

In the video, which was posted to Instagram by the player’s mother, Sabrina Brown, the student shouts, “Chain him up,” “Who let him out of his chains” and “He’s a monkey,” wrote reporters Gregory Yee, Hayley Smith and Hannah Fry.

In her Instagram post, Brown wrote that her son, Makai, came into her room stunned by what was said to him in the video.

“What he heard directed 100% to him is contained in this video, but these disgusting, racist insults continued throughout the entire game footage,” she said. “Needless to say, our family is up in arms.”

Brown also wrote that the Laguna Hills basketball program promoted “a culture of aggression, unsportsmanlike conduct and RACISM.”

Brown attended an Irvine City Council meeting on Tuesday to bring awareness to the incident. The player goes to Portola High School in Irvine.

“You may believe that this is an isolated incident and would like to put this behind you, but we don’t have that option,” Brown said on Tuesday. “The color of our skin does not allow us that option.”

“My family was guarded, uneasy and on alert well before the video surfaced,” she said, adding that any punishment to the student “won’t change the vile things that he felt comfortable enough to say — the vile things that were created by the culture at Laguna Hills, and made my family feel unsafe even before stepping foot into the game Friday night.”

Saddleback Valley Supt. Crystal Turner condemned the incident and said action was taken against the offending student in the form of providing counseling and discipline. Laguna Hills High is in the Saddleback Valley Unified School District.

Irvine Mayor Farrah Khan wasn’t impressed by the district’s response to the racist episode.

“I will be sending out a letter demanding more,” Khan wrote. “I want to see action taken that sends a clear message to everyone that there are serious consequences to hate and racist speech. No mother should be brought to tears about the way her child is bullied.”

Students leave campus after school at TeWinkle Middle School.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)


Newport-Mesa Unified parents have been pressing school officials about alleged inequities among academic course options between various campuses in the district. For example at TeWinkle Middle School, roughly 83% of the students are Latino and many are enrolled in an academic support program or a class that helps English learners. Because these courses are considered electives, many parents contend that their kids aren’t able to take a course that highlights their interests.

It was big news late last year when the first Latino-majority district was approved by the Orange County Board of Supervisors. This week, my colleague Gabriel San Román wrote a profile on the first declared candidate for the seat, Kim Nguyen. Being Mexican and Vietnamese, Nguyen made local history when she became the first Latina elected to Garden Grove City Council in 2016. She’s hoping to make history again.

Two wildfires tore through thousands of acres of Limestone Canyon in 2020, causing wildlife to flee the area. The canyon was closed as the vegetation regrew and animals returned to the land. The canyon is reopening to the public on Feb. 5 with a Wilderness Access Day. But, wildlife managers will need to be vigilant as fires become more common and climate change intensifies.

Newport Beach is moving forward with an update of its general plan, a document that guides all development decisions for a city. This week, the City Council chose to form a steering committee to help shape the policy document. The city has been working on the update for about three years. My colleague Lilly Nguyen has the story.

During a State of the City address in Fountain Valley, city officials described the need for better internet connectivity and the increasing risk of catalytic converter thefts. The city is installing broadband later this year. However, most residents at the event were concerned with rampant catalytic converter thefts.

After working nearly 40 years in education, Ocean View Supt. Carol Hansen will retire at the end of the school year. Hansen told my colleague Matt Szabo that dealing with the coronavirus pandemic over the last two years has been a tough task. “I feel very accomplished with the things we did in the last seven years in Ocean View,” Hansen said. “I do believe it’s in a very different place than when I came in. I think there’s a lot of systems and processes that have laid a great foundation for our successful programs to continue, like with our modernizations and our partnership with our unions.”

A man who punched a 71-year-old liquor store clerk was sentenced this week to two years in state prison. Prosecutors had originally pushed for a maximum of seven years, but the man pleaded guilty in exchange for the reduced sentence.

Case Manager, Stella Asakpa, assisting a client in ESL classes.
(Courtesy of Access California Services)


Access California Services has provided health and human rights services to immigrants for years in Anaheim. This week, the City Council approved a lease agreement for the nonprofit to stay in its home city. “This journey began back in 2004, with the city of Anaheim, as we hoped to collaborate with the city to build a partnership to serve all Anaheim residents and serving the underserved community,” Nahla Kayali, AccessCal’s founding executive director, said during a City Council meeting. “Now, 18 years later, I am honored and grateful to stand here today and see this vision come to life.”

Although Buddy Holly died at a young age, his musical influence is vast. J.P. McDermott is planning a celebratory event in honor of Holly in Newport Beach. The Old Town Orange resident has honored Holly for almost two decades during the month of February, the month that Holly was killed in a fatal plane crash in 1959, wrote my colleague Sarah Mosqueda.

After picking up pottery as a hobby a few years ago, a Costa Mesa couple have already turned it into a business. During the pandemic, the couple purchased a potter’s wheel and the Lunch Time Ceramics studio was born in their garage. They’re offering pieces for sale on their website.

Huntington Beach's Gaby Zaretskiy (2) shoots and scores the game-winning goal in overtime.
(Don Leach/Daily Pilot)


Huntington Beach girls’ water polo defeated Edison in a thrilling match that went to overtime. The Wave League match featured multiple lead changes late in the game, but the Oilers pulled it out in the end. Reporter Matt Szabo wrote that the two teams seem poised to split the league crown.

With their win this week over Fountain Valley, the Marina boys’ basketball team has moved into first place in the Wave League. Eric Hodgkins stood out in the pivotal match with his team-high 20 points. “It’s intense,” Hodgkins said. “I think on our end, we definitely look at them as rivals. I think that we feel disrespected by them, just because we’ve been simply not as good as them since probably my freshman year.”

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