The two players who have gained national attention for blindsiding a high school football official in Texas apologized for the incident but say they were doing what an assistant coach told them to do.
Michael Moreno and Victor Rojas, from John Jay High in San Antonio, also both say they heard umpire Robert Watts used the ‘n-word” in reference to an African-American teammate and Rojas said Watts made a derogatory remark to a Latino player. Watts, through his attorney, has denied using any racial slurs. The National Association of Sports Officials also told USA TODAY Sports this week that it found “no evidence at all” of racial slurs.
The two players have been suspended from school and could be facing criminal charges. The school district and UIL are investigated the incident. The UIL and the school district are scheduled to meet again Sept. 24. The Marble Falls Police also are investigating and the prosecutor in Burnet County has not made a decision. The game happened in Marble Falls.
In their first public comments, Moreno said on Good Morning America that defensive backs coach Mack Breed “pulled me and another player over and he told us, and I quote, ‘you need to hit the ref … he needs to pay the price.’ … for everything going on in the game. Racial slurs being thrown at players from this referee. Unjustified calls. His emotions got mixed into it. He told us to do what we did.
“You put your trust into a grown-up, your coach who’s been there since my freshman year. I trusted him that he wants the best for me and did what was I as told.”
Added Rojas: “I wasn’t thinking. I was doing what I was told.”
Breed has been placed on paid leave by the district, which Northside Independent School District officials say is standard protocol.
Rojas had the first hit on the official as he approached him from behind on the second to last play of the game. Moreno then dove on top of him.
“I wasn’t thinking. I was doing what I was told,” Rojas said.
“It was hard for me to actually do what I did,” said Moreno, who said he let up as he made the hit. “To this day, I regret it.”
Rojas said Watt told a Latino player, “This is America, speak English.” Both player say they specifically heard him use the “n-word.”
“It’s the honest truth. I wouldn’t lie about this situation,” Moreno said, adding, “the truth needs to be told. You can’t just do that because of something you were told. I’m ready to face the consequences. I am greatly sorry and regret.”
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Asked what he would say to Watts, who is considering litigation, Rojas said, “I would apologize for the mistake that I made.”
Jesse Hernandez, the attorney for the players, said he feels they have “been punished enough.” The players have served a three-day suspension, spent a week in alternative school and been thrown off the team.
“I think they’ve paid the appropriate punishment already,” Hernandez said. “They’ve apologized, they are sorry. … They’ve been punished enough.”