Orem High softball facilities vandalized with racial, homophobic slurs

(Norma Gonzalez | The Salt Lake Tribune) The Orem High School softball facilities were vandalized sometime Friday overnight with racial and gay slurs. The damage inside and outside dugouts and on the backstop.

Orem • While the nation is grappling with protests and riots in response to the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, it seems a smaller, localized event struck Orem High School overnight.

Sometime late Friday night or Saturday morning, vandals tagged racial and homophobic slurs throughout the softball facilities. However, the vandalism didn’t linger long as volunteers came together Saturday afternoon to paint over the spray-painted obscenities.

Softball coach Pablo Barker-Valdez showed up shortly before 10 a.m. to get ready for a one-on-one batting practice when he noticed the vandalism and called the police.

“It’s heartbreaking,” Barker-Valdez said. “I came and saw and got a little choked up just because we spend a lot of time here. This is our home. Blood, sweat, tears — all spent here.”

Although George Floyd’s death and protests have erupted in Salt Lake City and elsewhere around the nation, Barker-Valdez said he didn’t know if that played a part into why the vandals chose to spray paint racial and homophobic slurs.

The faded blue backstop with a big, bold golden yellow “Tigers” written across it had an "N" written over the “T.” Inside one of the dugouts, a homophobic slur was spray painted on the wall.

Even if the vandalism isn’t directly connected to the events surrounding George Floyd’s killing, Barker-Valdez said Utah has a problem when it comes to race relations.

“As far as history goes, there’s a lot of work that needs to be done racially,” Barker-Valdez said. “I don’t know if there’s a connection to that. I think it was just an idiot that did this. Anyone who uses racial slurs is going to be an idiot anyway, but the ignorance — there’s no room for it here. It’s not what we represent.”

The vandalism also included “Mountain View rulz” and three markings of “Kings” with a crown drawn next to it.

Barker-Valdez, who's coached the Orem softball program for four years, said the facilities have been a target of vandalism before, but last time vandals used chalk and there was no real damage.

The dugouts had gotten a face-lift last year with help from Prism Paint, which donated paint, and a parent who volunteered their time.

“It’s heartbreaking to see that all of her hard work that she spent on it, to see it spoiled like that,” “It’s heartbreaking to see the homophobic slurs and the racial slurs that were used here at our home.”