SAN ANTONIO, Texas — Did a game official level racial slurs at Texas high school football players, before they leveled him?
That’s what the players allege, according to school district officials. But a lawyer for the targeted referee, Robert Watts, said the claim is false.
“We’ve heard these allegations before, blaming the victim for the crime,” Watts’ lawyer Alan Goldberger on Wednesday. “That doesn’t have any credibility, and (Watts) is not happy about being falsely accused.”
The episode unfolded Friday during John Jay High School’s game at host Marble Falls High. In the fourth quarter, a John Jay defensive back hit Watts from behind at full-speed, a now-viral video shows. A teammate comes in quickly thereafter, hitting the fallen game official helmet-first.
The hits appeared severe, though Watts did not seem injured afterward, according to MySanAntonio.com, the website for the San Antonio Express-News. Stan Laing, the top athletic official for the Northside school district that includes John Jay High, said that the game official was sore.
Goldberger said Wednesday that Watts, who has been working high school and college football games for 14 years, is “under medical care” without offering further details. He called the incident a “heinous and brutal assault” and said Watts is “very lucky to be alive.”
Lawyer: ‘Being on a field doesn’t excuse you from assault’
A total of four John Jay players were ejected from the game, the last two being those who hit Watts near the end of the game.
School officials haven’t detailed what slurs the referee allegedly used, but they did say when. One was around the time of the second ejection (but before the hit) and another was on the next-to-last play, according to Laing. The Northside district plans to file a complaint against the official for the alleged slurs, an official said Tuesday.
The purported comments by the referee weren’t the only things that might have angered Mustang players. They disagreed with calls made during the game — including one instance in which Watts, according to school officials, ejected the wrong player.
Mack Breed, a John Jay assistant coach since 2010, apparently heard about the slur and saw what was happening on the field. According to Northside school spokesman Pascual Gonzalez, the players said the coach said of the targeted referee, ” ‘That guy needs to pay for cheating us,’ or words to that effect.”
“His alleged suggestion to the students was inappropriate and could have led to this incident,” Gonzalez said.
Breed has since been placed on administrative leave. CNN has made multiple attempts to get his take on the situation, with no success as of Wednesday evening.
Investigators have contacted Burnet County Attorney Eddie Arredondo and the prosecutor has said he is open to filing charges against the two John Jay players, Marble Falls Police Department spokesman Tom Dillard said. Dillard wouldn’t speculate on when a decision on charges might be made.
Watts’ lawyer said he believes the decision is a no-brainer: “It’s assault and battery. I don’t think it’s rocket science to figure that out.”
“Being on a field doesn’t excuse you from assault, just because you’re playing a game.”