Sunday, January 19, 2020
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Texas H.S. football players assault ref

Two high school football players from San Antonio, who appear to have deliberately attacked a referee during a game, have been suspended and may face criminal charges for their assault, the Express-News reports.

The two players are students at John Jay High School in San Antonio and were playing in a game on Friday night, Sept 4, against Marble Falls. John Jay lost the game, 15-9, as well as the two players who, in addition to being suspended, may face criminal charges. Texas is one of 23 states across the nation that treat assault on a game official as a separate criminal offense.

States in which assaulting a referee is a criminal offense:

  1. Alabama
  2. Arkansas
  3. California
  4. Delaware
  5. Florida
  6. Georgia
  7. Idaho

  1. Illinois
  2. Kentucky
  3. Louisiana
  4. Minnesota
  5. Montana
  6. Nevada
  7. New Jersey
  8. New Mexico

  1. North Carolina
  2. Oklahoma
  3. Oregon
  4. Pennsylvania
  5. South Carolina
  6. Texas
  7. Washington
  8. West Virginia

Officials from the Northside Independent School District said the incident would be treated as an “assault on a school official,” ABC News reported. The students, whose names the school district didn’t release because they’re minors but whose names were mentioned in several news reports, will face a school discipline hearing and could end up being expelled from NISD or spending the rest of their high school careers in a juvenile detention facility.

Why did this happen? Nobody is saying at this point, pending an investigation, but NISD spokesman Pascual Gonzales said, “During the game, the players were feeling lots of frustration by what they perceived to be missed or wrong calls by the refs. The players also allege racial slurs were directed at them by the umpire,” who was attacked from behind. Through his attorney, the umpire denied those charges, the New York Times reported.

The Texas University Interscholastic League, which is the high school athletic association in the state similar to the Illinois High School Association or the Maryland Public Secondary School Athletic Association, has been notified of the allegations against the official. “The League is working with the school districts and officials involved to conduct a thorough investigation,” the UIL said in a statement. “The UIL takes this matter very seriously and will take appropriate action once the investigation is complete.”

An assistant coach, identified by district officials as Mike Breed, 23, allegedly said to the students before the incident, “That guy needs to pay for cheating us” or words to that effect, referring to the umpire. He has been placed on administrative leave.

John Jay’s head coach, Gary Gutierrez, was said not to be aware of the alleged conversation between one of his 10 assistant coaches and the two players involved in the assault. He immediately apologized for the incident.


Lots of allegedly bad behavior going on in South Texas: Game officials should keep their racist biases to themselves; coaches should be careful not to encourage “getting even” against the other team or referees, since kids are likely to misinterpret those directives; and student-athletes should not have attacked a game official, regardless of what he may or may not have said.

But even if racial slurs were directed at the players or bad calls were made, violence is completely inappropriate. With a few minutes of rage and revenge, these kids may have just wrecked their chances for college, for continued participation in high school athletics, and even graduation from high school. The odds are not in their favor, and a heated discussion would have gone away within a few minutes or days. As it is, this video had been seen by almost 8 million people as of 7 PM on our publication date.

The Illinois High School Association released a statement, written by IHSA Assistant Executive Director Craig Anderson, mirroring what the NFL Referees Association and other groups have said:

Obviously these are actions that are not tolerable in any walk of society, but they represent an even more dangerous perspective on how we as a society view and treat the individuals who govern our games. [Game] officials … at their core … are members of communities, who officiate to remain connected to the games that they often played and coached. They love the game and enjoy being around it. They sacrifice time [with] family and friends to give back, and most find more value in the camaraderie than the modest game check they receive.

Ultimately, officials will not get every call right, but they must be respected by all student-athletes, coaches and fans. I would call upon all coaches to speak with their student-athletes regarding the respect we owe our working officials. There are many life lessons to be learned through educational-based athletics. Let’s make this a teachable moment for the students we serve.

Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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