Florida politician accused of telling Puerto Rican teenagers to 'go cut grass' at tennis club

Photo: Dan Wagner/Herald-Tribune

Florida politician accused of telling Puerto Rican teenagers to 'go cut grass' at tennis club

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Florida politician accused of telling Puerto Rican teenagers to 'go cut grass' at tennis club

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A Florida politician is being accused of making racists remarks to a Hispanic teenager at a local tennis club.

A video shows Sarasota City Commission candidate Martin Hyde confronting the young tennis player. In the video, the teenager accuses Hyde of telling him to “go cut grass.”

The alleged confrontation took place last Tuesday at the Bath & Racquet Club in Sarasota.

The incident gained attention late Friday when a video was posted on Twitter. The person filming the video is a 15-year-old Puerto Rican junior tennis player who was at the club for a youth tournament, according to his uncle Javier Irizarry.

“That’s racism, man; how can you say something like that? Aren’t you human?” the young tennis player tells Hyde.

“This is a private club; get out,” Hyde responds.

Sarasota City Commission candidate Martin Hyde (Photo: Dan Wagner/Herald-Tribune)

Hyde then tries to have the person recording the video kicked out of the club in a rolling argument that moves from the tennis courts to inside the club. Somebody again accuses Hyde of racism.

“You’re telling me to cut grass because I’m a Hispanic,” a person on the video says.

Hyde first denies on the video that he made the “cut the grass” comment.

“You said! You said cut some grass, man,” is the response from someone on the video, or possibly multiple people.

“Yes, so what?” Hyde responds.

Hyde adamantly denies saying anything racist but acknowledges he acted inappropriately. Hyde said the players were talking loudly and disrupting a lesson his son was taking, but that he should have handled the situation better.

“I haven’t had anyone condone my poor behavior and I’m not without regret for it myself,” Hyde wrote. “That having been said I agree with those that have said the best form of redemption might be a public one.”

The politician initially said he had planned to quit the Sarasota City Commission race following the allegations, but now says he may continue running for the seat held by Commissioner Liz Alpert.

“I haven’t made a final determination yet as I want to consult with more people whose opinions I value, but for now I’m rescinding my campaign termination,” Hyde wrote in an email.

Hyde told the Herald-Tribune Saturday that his “Yes, so what?” statement was not an acknowledgment that he made the “cut the grass” comment, but was in response to another allegation.

“I was replying to a previous comment,” about being rude, Hyde said.

The incident apparently got Hyde banned from the Bath & Racquet Club.

A Twitter user who goes by the name Sergiodilanpr wrote that he was one of the individuals involved in the confrontation with Hyde. Posting in Spanish under the Twitter handle @sergiodilan101, Sergiodilanpr wrote that he was in the middle of a conversation when Hyde came up and asked where they were from and if they knew how to speak English.

The teenagers told the politician that they were from Puerto Rico and they knew how to speak English. That’s when Hyde began to start shouting at them, according to Sergiodilanpr.

“After he yelled at us, he left and sat a table a little away from us and continued staring,” Sergiodilanpr said. “My partner and I looked at each other and smiled nervously, which he sees and asks ‘whats so funny?’ And I answered, ‘nothing about this is funny.'”

That’s when Hyde told them to “go cut grass,” according to Sergiodilanpr.

“We had never felt more upset, frustrated, uncomfortable and sad,” writes Sergiodilanpr.

The Twitter thread by Sergiodilanpr also mentioned that Hyde said he would give them $50,000 for the video, something Hyde denies.

Hyde said in a text message that the claim that he would offer $50,000 “for a video I didn’t even know existed is a blatant and ridiculous lie.”

The wealthy Sarasota businessman and prominent Republican is known for being brash and outspoken. He ran for a City Commission seat in 2017 and lost, but has remained active in local politics and is a fixture at city meetings.

The Herald-Tribune uncovered a police report from February that detailed another incident in which Hyde was accused of using racially charged language in a confrontation with some construction workers.

A pair of construction managers told police that the politician was on their property when Hyde yelled an obscenity and told “Mexicans” to “turn off their Spanish music.”

Hyde disputed using obscene language. Asked whether he remarked about the workers playing “Spanish music” Hyde said: “I can’t remember what I said nine months ago, who knows. I can’t confirm or deny.”

The confrontation was part of what the construction managers described to police as “ongoing disputes” with Hyde, who has a history of confrontations documented by police.

Hyde’s behavior has drawn scrutiny in the past. The Herald-Tribune published an article during the 2017 race that delved into questions about Hyde’s temperament.

“Documents filed during Hyde’s lengthy 2010 divorce reveal accusations, later dropped, that he threatened his ex-wife, and police reports detail heated exchanges with officers during traffic incidents,” the Herald-Tribune reported, noting that Hyde was described by officers as “irate” and “belligerent.”

Hyde also has been aggressive in criticizing the City Commission. He typically is unapologetic about his behavior, styling himself as a no nonsense truth teller, but has been more contrite after the latest incident.

“I was rude and, yeah, it’s not appropriate,” Hyde told the Herald-Tribune Saturday, even as he insisted he did nothing racist.

Contributing: Adrianna Rodriguez, USA TODAY. Follow Zac Anderson on Twitter: @zacjanderson

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Florida politician accused of telling Puerto Rican teenagers to 'go cut grass' at tennis club
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