During a recent NCAA men's basketball tournament game, members of the University of Southern Mississippi pep band harassed a Puerto Rican native on the opposing Kansas State team as he was about to shoot free throws. A local NBC affiliate reported:
When freshman point guard Angel Rodriguez stepped to the free throw line in the first half, some members of the band began to chant, “Where's your green card?” Rodriguez is a Puerto Rico native.
On his March 23 Fox News show, Bill O'Reilly chalked the incident down to “hazing” typical at college sports games and called it “stupid, immature,” and a “taunt.” He stated:
O'REILLY: Whatever the complexion of the player is, and Jackie Robinson on in, you're going to have varying degrees of immaturity, sometimes viciousness, directed at the opposing team. So, “where's your green card” -- people thought that was cute and funny. I don't see that as a reflection of anti-Hispanic bias in the United States. I see that as a stupid, immature, sporting arena taunt. That's all.
O'Reilly was taking issue with Rep. Luis Gutierrez's comments on the incident, which Gutierrez described as “hatred and bigotry” in a speech on the House floor. Gutierrez went on to say:
The issue is why people think it's OK to treat Latinos as if they are second-rate Americans. Why so many people seem to think that being Latino means being a suspect. Why they look at a young man named Rodriguez and think he doesn't belong in this country.
Because misguided kids taunting Latinos isn't really the disease -- it's just a symptom.
The heart of the sickness is more troubling. The truth is, when it comes to Latinos, and immigrants, far too many so-called “leaders” in our nation are starting the taunts.
Southern Mississippi quickly issued a public apology for the students' conduct and revoked the scholarships of band members who had taken part in the racially insensitive chant. The students were also dismissed from the band and instructed to undergo cultural sensitivity training.
O'Reilly also said he didn't “believe” the racist chant was “a reflection of a wider prejudice.” He concluded: “I'm not diminishing the comment, I don't think it's just a wider deal.”