Fred Riley Jr. is the high school football coach making national headlines after one of his players was severely beaten in the locker room. The attack was recorded on a cellphone and widely shared on social media beginning in May.
The parents of the child accuse Riley of allowing and promoting this type of culture among his players. Riley was placed on administrative leave on August 8 from Davidson High School in Mobile.
Here’s what you need to know.
1. The Locker Room Attack Went Viral and Prompted Other Families to Come Forward With Similar Stories of Abuse
Warning: The video contains graphic language and content.
Fred Riley Jr. is facing allegations from several parents at Davidson High School that he allowed for a culture of violence and hazing on his team. They say Riley and his staff should have done more to protect players from being abused. Some parents have been pushing for Riley to be fired ever since the video of the attack on Rodney Kim Jr. began circulating on social media.
14-year-old Rodney Kim Jr, who was a freshman at the time, can be seen trying desperately to shield himself as he is repeatedly punched and kicked while curled up on the ground. The person watching the video can be heard saying “snitch,” but it’s unclear if that person was referring to the victim. Kim’s parents say he had a broken arm and suffered emotional trauma.
Since this video went viral, at least two more families have come forward to report that their sons suffered similar beatings at the hands of their teammates. Lawsuits filed against the school claim the students were hit and beaten with belts, and body-slammed to the ground.
2. Several Football Players Were Charged With Assault & the School District Is Facing Two Lawsuits
At least eight students faced assault charges following the locker room attack. According to AL.com, the first charges were filed at the beginning of May against four students. Soon after, five more were identified for their alleged roles in the beating of Rodney Kim.
Three of the students turned themselves into police May 29. They were identified as 18-year-olds Alex Sullivan, Ellis Damoind Wright and LaQuiton Williams Jr. They were soon released on bond. A 17-year-old also turned himself into a juvenile center.
No members of the football staff have been charged. But there have been calls from parents to arrest Coach Riley and hold him criminally responsible. The family of Rodney Kim has sued Davidson High School for $12 million. A separate lawsuit filed by another family is connected to an alleged beating during the 2016-2017 school year. That suit is asking for $9 million.
3. Coach Riley Was Placed on Administrative Leave August 8 But Has No Plans to Step Down
Fred Riley Jr. was placed on administrative leave August 8 amid mounting pressure against the school. Mobile County Public Schools declined to give out any additional details about further action against Coach Riley. The school only stated, “We do not comment on personnel matters.”
Coach Riley spoke during media day on July 24. That was the first time reporters were able to ask him questions since the locker room beating video had gone viral. But he dodged questions about the incident and would not address the issue of hazing.
Local TV station WPMI was there. Coach Riley was asked if he would consider retiring. He said that he has no plans to do so. Riley described his love for coaching. “I was called to do this. Some people get called to be sportswriters, some people get called to be preachers, some get called to be whatever. I never wanted to be a fireman, I never wanted to be a policeman. I mean, I’d like to be a superhero but that didn’t work out… I’ve always wanted to be a coach. I’ve never strayed from that.”
Riley also did not comment about an alleged memo that he and his staff received from the school district after the locker room attack. WKRG reported the school sent Riley a “supervision memo” with directives for how to better oversee the players. The directives included:
• It is the responsibility of the coaches to monitor and supervise all student-athletes that participate on their teams
• All head coaches and assistant coaches are responsible for locker room supervision
• Expectations for conduct are to be clearly communicated, posted and reviewed on a consistent basis with athletes
• Coaches at all times must monitor and walk through the locker room until all student-athletes exit
• It is the responsibility of the coaches to make sure all student-athletes are off campus before they leave campus. Student-athletes are NOT to be left on campus without a coach
4. Fred Riley Jr. Has Been Coaching Football for More Than Three Decades
Coach Riley has been coaching football since 1982. WPMI reports Riley began his career as a graduate assistant at Auburn University under head coach Pat Dye.
According to his LinkedIn page, Riley earned a bachelor’s degree in health and physical education from the University of North Alabama in 1982. He played football and was a member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Riley returned to the school a decade later for a master’s degree.
Riley has been working at Davidson High School since at least 2004. His page states that he has been an employee of the Mobile County Public School System since 2004, as the head football coach and athletic director. The Davidson High School website lists that Riley works in athletics but does not provide additional information about staff members.
5. Coach Riley Is Married With Five Children
Fred Riley Jr. is the father of five children, according to his LinkedIn page. Their names are Moriah Ray, Rebekah Fowler, McKayla, J. Michael, and Wes.
Riley is married to Susan Coley Riley. She works as an accountant and frequently posts photos of the family on Facebook. Fred Riley does not have his own Facebook profile.
Daughter McKayla has shared the most information on her public Facebook page out of the Riley children. She followed her father’s footsteps. She has been coaching soccer in Chattanooga since September 2017. She attended college at Lee University in Cleveland, Tennessee, and continues to live there now. She also got married earlier this year.
Daughter Moriah has been married since 2013 and appears to have given Coach Riley a granddaughter. Fred and Susan’s son Dylan appears to be a musician, based on a photo posted in 2015.
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