On Friday, a Texas football game turned into a potential—and unlikely—crime scene when two players for John Jay High School lined up and drilled a referee in the back while he was officiating a play late in the game during a 15-9 loss to a rival high school. The hit—captured on camera—pinballed around the Internet over the holiday weekend and elicited various forms of general outrage from all corners. The players were suspended; the school district promised to investigate; the referee mulled filing criminal charges. It all felt like an episode of Friday Night Lights scooped up off the cutting room floor.
The question that still needed to be answered, however, was: Why did the two defensive backs blindside the referee? The game appeared to be physical and perhaps dirty, with two other players from John Jay getting tossed earlier in the game before the hit on the official. Two competing though not mutually exclusive causes for the hit emerged on Tuesday. ESPN reports the two players, both reportedly Hispanic, accused the referee in question of directing racial slurs at them. A 29-year-old assistant coach at John Jay was also placed on paid administrative leave for allegedly saying this about the ref to the John Jay team before the hit took place: “That guy needs to pay for cheating us.”
The school district superintendent “said if a racial slur was directed at the two players, the protocol should have been to let the lead official at the game know about it,” according to ESPN. “The school district announced that it is treating the incident as an assault on a school official, an offense that could lead to expulsion.”