The attorney for the Texas football official who was blindsided by two John Jay football players says his client does not plan to appear before the University Interscholastic Association committee investigating potential punishment against the school, coaches and players.
During Thursday’s hearing by the UIL’s State Executive Committee, the committee expressed a desire to hear from umpire Robert Watts as it continues its investigation. But Jay Downs, one of Watts’ attorneys, told USA TODAY Sports on Friday that testifying “would not be good for (Watts) from a medical standpoint or a legal standpoint.”
“The UIL doesn’t have subpoena powers to make someone appear,” Downs said. “Given the way the world works, we don’t see it being very beneficial. He’ll tell his story to law enforcement and cooperate fully as he’s obligated to do and tell his story in a format where he and his lawyers can exercise a modicum of control.
“Telling his story to the UIL or in front of the press where everyone with good intentions can ask any question, it can turn into a free for all and get off the subject. The real subject is this man was trying to officiate a high school football game and he was blindsided by two players wearing pads. He has a concussion and post-concussion syndrome and doctors don’t want him to officiate. He is not able to work a full schedule. This has had an impact on his life. He has a wife and a 2-month-old.”
Downs added that doctors have told Watts to “avoid noise, bright lights and a stressful environment.”
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The UIL has scheduled another hearing for mid-October when it expects to hear from the two players, Michael Moreno and Jose Rojas. The students had a school disciplinary hearing Wednesday and were sentenced to 75 days in the district’s alternative school, their lawyer said. They are eligible to return to Jay High on Jan. 15.
“We would like to put this to bed and we recognize that, but we need all the facts before we do,” SEC chairman Mike Motheral said Thursday.
Downs appeared before the committee Thursday and submitted Watts’ account of the events during the Sept. 4 game between John Jay and Marble Falls that was provided to police. In the statement, Watts said the hit from the first player bruised his arm and the second from the second knocked his hit into the turf.
Watts is alleged to have used racial slurs toward African-American players and also is alleged to have made a derogatory remark to a Hispanic player.
During the hearing, the Texas Association of Sports Officials presented its preliminary findings that Watts did not use racial slurs. TASO said it would have its report completed within 10 days. The SEC could forward that report to the UIL’s Sports Officials Committee if warranted.
Downs provided photographs from Watts’ wedding and of his grandmother. The best man at Watts’ wedding, his best friend since grade school, is African-American, as is the pastor who officiated at the wedding. Watts’ grandmother is of Mexican descent.
“The allegations are not consistent with a guy who lives his personal life in a different way,” Downs said Friday. “It’s so far-fetched to think he would throw out racial slurs on a football field.”
Shortly after the incident, Alan Goldberger, another of Watts’ attorneys, had indicated that Watts was hopeful of getting back on the field this season. At this point, Downs said that is “a complete unknown.”
“The doctors could tell him next week he could be cleared or they could tell him don’t do this again,” Downs said. “He’s not being paid a huge financial incentive to do this. He needs to do what’s best for his long-term health.”
Marble Falls police continue to investigate the incident and are said to be close to turning over the case to Burnet County prosecutors, who will determine whether to file charges.
“I don’t ever think there is a timeline for these things beyond whatever the statute of limitations would be,” Downs said. “They are in the luxurious position of going slowly and methodically to gather all the information and study it. They don’t have to account to us, nor should they. It’s up to them, its their job and they will do it as best as they can.”