High school basketball
Storm Lake players say they were racially abused by students at Spencer High School. Wikimedia

An ethnically diverse Iowa high school basketball team had racist insults hurled at them during a match against their local rivals.

The Storm Lake Tornadoes were subject to racially-motivated taunts from home fans when they travelled to to take on the Tigers in the neigbouring town of Spencer.

According to reports, supporters of the Tigers shook their car keys at the Storm Lake players and chanted "lock up your cars." A small section of the Spencer crowd also wore red, white and blue and shouted 'U-S-A' at opposing players in accordance with the event's unofficial 'patriotic' theme.

Iowa's Storm Lake is notable for its high percentage of ethnic minority residents in what is a predominantly white state. The local high school has a particularly diverse student body, with 84% of its 2,400 pupils coming from non-Caucasian backgrounds.

The team has been subject to racially motivated chants previously and in one incident an opposing fan directed the 'n' word at a player, according to the town's paper. Spencer students also used the word "beaners" during a recent American football game – a racial slur typically used against Latino communities.

"We're going to watch out for the kids and try to give them the support they need," Storm Lake's superintendent Turner said. "Sometimes you have some individuals that don't make very good choices, and at that point kids have got to learn — are you going to join in or learn from that?"

Spencer High School superintendent Terry Henman has condemned the actions of his students and has appealed to parents and pupils to be more considerate to those from immigrant and non-white backgrounds.

"This isn't what Spencer or Spencer schools are about. It's not what we believe in," Hemann said. "We had some students that made some poor decisions and we're using this as a learning opportunity and making better choices at the next opportunity," he said.