An Arizona high school basketball referee will no longer receive game assignments after he allegedly asked the coach of the visiting team if his players had green cards, PEOPLE confirms.
The referee, whose name has not been released, allegedly made the comment just before a freshman game last Tuesday, when the Pueblo High School Warriors of Tucson traveled to Walden Grove High School in Sahuarita to take on the Red Wolves.
“Most of the boys had never witnessed or been involved in this type of racism,” Patricia Coleman, the mother of one of the Pueblo players, told the Arizona Daily Star. “Breaks my heart that they had to be a part of this ugliness.”
Joe Paddock, with the Arizona Interscholastic Association, tells PEOPLE that the association does not have the power to fire an official, but notes that the referee will no longer receive game assignments.
“The comment, while made in jest and in no way was meant as an attempt of legal action, cannot be justified within the spirit of educational athletics,” Paddock says in a statement.
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However, Tucson Unified School District Athletics director Herman House said in a statement to KGUN that the referee has been “relieved of his duties.”
“Tucson Unified School District will continue to investigate and we strongly condemn any comments that have no place in an educational setting,” House said in the statement, adding that he reported the incident to the association after hearing about it from Pueblo’s athletic director.
Officials with the association said that the remark was a violation of its code of ethics, according to Fox News.
House highlighted the alleged remark — “Do your players have their green cards?” — in his statement, describing it as “inappropriate and slanderous.”
Coleman addressed the incident in a Facebook post, writing, “Great job Pueblo Freshman & Jv basketball on wins despite the racist ref who felt it appropriate to ask if players had their green cards.”