A trio of baseball players at Nordhoff High School in Ojai have been dispatched from the program following an incident with racially insensitive implications, with the resignation of Nordhoff coach Sean Strben coming shortly thereafter.
As reported by the Los Angeles Times, the three unnamed students used letters from their Nordhoff jerseys to spell out, “the most hurtful, disrespectful and indefensible racial epithet in our language/culture.” The word collage was captured in a photo that was then posted on social media. The incident occurred March 15 during the school day, and a rapid investigation led to both Strben’s resignation and the team’s forfeiture of a scheduled game against Westlake days later.
Nordhoff principal Greg Bayless stressed that Strben had no knowledge of or responsibility for the incident in question, but the principal still accepted his resignation in large part because of the severity of the epithet used in the incident. Bayless said three players were involved.
Lance Wiggins, the school’s head football coach and a baseball assistant, will finish the season as head baseball coach.
“I considered canceling the season because it was not clear to me to the extent this was an isolated incident and it was not clear to me if the other players understood the gravity of the situation,” Bayless told the Times. “If any was going to minimize or dismiss the situation, I would have said the season is over. Instead, they were incredibly embarrassed. Not a single person of the remaining players was not deeply wounded.”
That the season continued is a testament to the team’s recognition when their teammates had stepped far beyond a line. It wasn’t enough to save their coach’s position — Strben is being replaced by Nordhoff football coach Lance Wiggins — but it could serve as a marker for other programs of the consequences of brash racial insensitivity.