It all started with a ball shove. After not receiving the call he wanted, John Jay quarterback Moses Reynolds shoved the ball into the chest of referee Robert Watts. According to Reynolds, Watts used the n-word after being hit in the chest with the ball.
Reynolds, an African American, was highly offended by this statement. He is one of the few African Americans at John Jay, a school that is 83% Hispanic and 6% African American.
Later in the game other players reported that Watts told some of the Hispanic players to “speak English, this is America.” Watts denies using any racial slurs.
Regardless, the John Jay bench was fired up at these alleged comments, including assistant coach Mack Breed. In a heated talk with his players he told Victor Rojas and Michael Moreno to hit Watts. On the next play they struck the referee twice from behind, giving him multiple minor injuries. The players were ejected and have since been suspended from John Jay High School and sent to an alternative school for 75 days. Coach Breed apologized and has resigned. Breed has also been barred from coaching under the University Interscholastic League’s jurisdiction until further hearings.
Watts would later issue a five page sworn statement that chronicled his version of the story. He claimed not to have used any racial slurs in the initial statement but that is still under investigation.
This story comes at a very poor time for the sport of football. Having just dealt with the problem of cheating during Deflategate, the suspensions of Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson for domestic violence, and the murder case of Aaron Hernandez, football’s reputation has become increasingly tarnished. September was the first month in six years where an NFL player was not arrested, but this story presents an issue for football that isn’t at a professional level.
This story also leads us to the ever present problem of race in our culture. Even if Watts did not say what was reported by the players, something had to have been said to make the players and coach react so violently. Even in sports where everyone is on a ‘level playing field,’ there are still apparent issues of inequality. That being said the player were not justified in their actions no matter what the ref said to them.