Two San Antonio, Texas, football players are being investigated after they appeared to target a referee during a game on Friday. The referee was blindsided by one player, and then another player dove on top of him after the first hit. Video of the incident went viral over the weekend.
The John Jay High School players have been identified by KSAT-TV as senior Michael Moreno and sophomore Victor Rojas. They have been suspended from school and their team while the investigation is completed. The hit on referee Robert Watts came during a John Jay loss to Marble Falls High School.
An assistant football coach, Mack Breed, has been put on administrative leave after the players said he told them the referee “had to pay” for making bad calls against John Jay.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. The Referee Wants to Press Criminal Charges Against the Players
The video shows Victor Rojas, wearing No. 12, running into referee Robert Watts, and slamming him down to the ground with a hard hit to his back. As Watts falls to the ground, the second player, Michael Moreno, who was wearing No. 81, dives down onto Watts, delivering a second blow.
The hits occurred with about a minute left in the game, which John Jay lost to Marble Falls 15-9. Marble Falls was attempting to run out the clock at the time.
The incident is now being investigated by the Northside Independent School District, which John Jay High School is a part of, along with the Texas Association of Sports Officials and the Texas University Interscholastic League. Local police are also investigating and the players could face criminal charges.
“This is disturbing,” Northside Independent School District spokesman Pascual Gonzalez said in a statement. “It is not the sportsmanlike behavior that we teach our students. We are cooperating fully with the University Interscholastic League with this investigation.”
Wayne Elliott, the secretary of the Austin Football Officials Association, told ESPN that Watts, who is from Austin, is “very upset” wants to press charges.
“The first thing we want is that those two kids never play football again,” Elliott told ESPN.
2. The Players Said Racial Slurs Were Directed at Them By the Referee
The players told school district officials that the referee directed racial slurs toward the players, according to WFAA.
There allegations have also been made on social media that there is more to the story than what is shown on video. Supporters of John Jay High School have claimed that the referee made racial slurs before the hit. One Twitter user, @belladiaz33, said “How is a ref going to call players “n*****s” and get away with it ..”
Another Twitter user, @Nick_lopez24, said, “I don’t blame jay for smacking that ref when he or one of the refs called someone a n****r and wasn’t calling the plays.”
“It’s really unfortunate. We’re still getting stories on different things,” Northside ISD Athletic Director Steve Laing told KENS-TV. “That’s why we’ve got to make sure to get the entire story before we basically share it with everybody, because we don’t want anything out there to be assumed. We want to be very clear on exactly what happened.”
The referee, Robert Watts, told TexasHSFootball.com, “Libel and slander have already been committed against me. I will be contacting the appropriate people soon and any statement from me will come at a later date.”
3. Moreno Stayed in the Game & Was Later Penalized for a Late Hit
Michael Moreno was not ejected after the hit, as another player was taken out of the game by mistake, the San Antonio Express-News reports. Moreno then was penalized for a late hit on the Marble Falls quarterback on the final play of the game.
The father of one of the players, who was not identified, told SBNation.com, “I have advised my son to let the school put out the response to that misconceived video. Once that happens I will be more than happy to share with you and to share my feelings about an unfortunate incident.”
4. The Role Their Coaches Played in the Incident Is Also Being Investigated
The school district is also investigating whether the John Jay coach, Gary Gutierrez, or any of his assistants, had any role in the incident. The coach for Marble Falls, Matt Green, told the San Antonio Express-News that Gutierrez apologized for the incident after the game.
“I’ve coached 14 years and I’ve never seen anything like it,” Green told the newspaper.
5. Two Other Players Were Ejected for Separate Incidents
The hit on the referee came after two John Jay players, including star quarterback Moses Reynolds, were ejected from the game in separate incidents. Reynolds is the younger brother of Texas A&M wide receiver Josh Reynolds and is being highly recruited himself, with offers from the Aggies, Baylor, Oklahoma State, TCU and California. He has not been suspended from the team.
The video of the hit on the referee has been viewed millions of times on YouTube since Friday’s game, and has even drawn a response from the NFL Referees Association.
“These types of actions against any game official at any level are inexcusable,” Jim Quirk, the executive director of the NFL Referees Association, said in a statement. “We fully support the suspensions of the players involved, along with a full and complete investigation by the Texas University Interscholastic League (UIL).”