Cheerleaders from a Southern California high school were allegedly greeted with racist taunts by football fans of the other school, forcing the squad's early departure, officials said.
The ugly Friday night incident reportedly happened shortly after halftime of the Inland Empire contest between the visiting Valley View High School Eagles and the Temecula Valley High School Golden Bears.
The visiting Valley View cheerleaders, as custom, paid a visit to the home sideline at intermission to meet their Temecula counterparts and watch the halftime show together, Eagles cheerleading coach Kenya Williams told NBC News on Tuesday.
After the halftime show, the Valley View cheerleaders visited the snack stand and restrooms, available only on the stadium's home side, and were allegedly greeted with hateful taunts.
"You have to go over there, so my girls, as they went through the stands, they heard from the crowd, making monkey noises," said Williams, a counselor at Valley View. "It was like, 'Did you heard that?' 'Yeah I heard that.' "
Williams was back on the visitor sideline and didn't see the incident. But she learned about it when other Valley View students allegedly witnessed it and reported to the counselor before her own squad returned to their side.
Valley View's cheerleaders left early in the third quarter.
"My first instinct was, 'Let me get the girls out of here,'" Williams said. "I didn't know if they were going to follow the girls to the bus after the games was over. It was traumatizing to them."
Five of Valley View's 17 cheerleaders are Black.
Temecula Valley High School's student body is nearly 49 percent white and less than 3 percent Black, according to the latest state data from 2019-20. Meanwhile, Valley View is more than 13 percent Black and 9.5 percent white, state data shows.
A spokeswoman for the Temecula Valley Unified School District said in a statement the district is aware of "allegations regarding the use of racially charged language and racial slurs at a football game" on Friday.
"Our school district embraces diversity and strongly condemns hate speech and offensive, hateful language or racial intolerance of any kind on the sports fields, in school buildings, or anywhere on or off school premises," the statement continued. "We will hold anyone found to have used such language while representing any of our schools accountable for their words and actions."
Officials from both districts said they're investigating in hopes of finding who uttered the slurs.
Valley View High School is in the Moreno Valley Unified School District, and Superintendent Martinrex Kedziora said in a statement that his staff is "working closely with the Temecula Valley Unified School District to conduct an investigation regarding this unfortunate incident to ensure this situation is addressed appropriately and in a timely manner."
Students at Temecula Valley Hight School, which is about 90 miles southeast of central Los Angeles and 65 miles north of downtown San Diego, rallied in support of Valley View Hight School cheerleaders on Monday.
They carried signs such as, "Hate has no home here" and "Hate needs to stop."
"It hurts," Tony Kingsberry, a Black man whose 14-year-old daughter attends Temecula Valley High School, told NBC Los Angeles on Monday. "And people just don't understand that pain."
A representative for the CIF Southern Section, the governing body of high school sports in most of Southern California, said Tuesday his office is aware of Friday's incident and is waiting for the districts to make their findings.
Valley View's next football game is set for Thursday night, at home against Vista del Lago High School, and the school's cheerleaders are going to be back on the sidelines, according to Williams.