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Cal Poly Athletics has called on local grocery stores to remove tortillas from their aisles in preparation for Wednesday’s rivalry men’s soccer game between Cal Poly and University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB).

According to athletics director Don Oberhelman, for the past six years, Cal Poly students have purchased tortilla packs and snuck them into Spanos Stadium to throw them onto the field, often hitting players and staff. This tradition has been adopted from UCSB, as students there have been throwing tortillas when goals are scored during their sports games for more 30 years. Tortilla throwing has been criticized for its racist connotation, as the UCSB mascot is Olé the Gaucho, an Argentine cowboy. 

Oberhelman has called several grocery stores in San Luis Obispo — including Vons, California Fresh Market, Grocery Outlet and Trader Joe’s — requesting that tortillas be taken off their shelves in an effort to discourage students from continuing the “tradition” this year.

Oberhelman said throwing tortillas is disrespectful and may injure players, coaches and officials.

“It is my hope that our local grocers will cooperate with us in this endeavor and understand that we need to protect our students from themselves because so many of them don’t understand how bad this is to do,” Oberhelman said. “The reaction [from grocers] that I got was mostly positive but there was some mixed feedback for sure.”

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Blas Alvarado | Mustang News, 2021

Field officials in 2021 were close to forfeiting the match due to the volume of tortillas and other objects thrown onto the field. Students and the stadium will be checked before the soccer game commences to prevent tortillas from being snuck onto the field, according to Oberhelman.

“We’ve got to find a way to do better,” Oberhelman said. “I’m very concerned that the officials will stop the match if the conduct has not improved from last year.”