When Somerset (Fla.) Jefferson High School football coach Leroy Smith was fired just before the start of the season, there were legitimate questions about why he was being dismissed.
Now a Florida public media outlet believes it has the answer.
As part of an exhaustively researched and reported investigation of the Jefferson County School District, which is Florida’s lone all-charter school system, WLRN reporter Jessica Bakeman obtained audio records of interviews between Smith and local police following a massive on-campus brawl in 2017. In part of the interview questions, Smith admitted to advising his students (perhaps upon solicitation) about the fight:
In an interview with Smith, Williams elaborated on what the football players told him: “Some of them were saying you were showing them how to move and to go for the stomach and go for the head.”
Williams also heard from players that Smith, who is black, warned them against being “pussy ass [n-words],” although the police investigator received different information about the context of the comment.
Smith told Williams that both allegations were true — that he showed off boxing moves to players at practice and told them if they let their teammates fight and didn’t intervene, they would be “pussy ass [n-words].” He argued he was trying to diffuse a potential fight, not exacerbate it.
You can see Smith’s police interview in the video directly below:
The brawl referenced involved more than 10 students and lasted more than 12 minutes before it was eventually broken up by nine police officers.
WLRN’s investigation found that Smith also faced charges of assaulting a school staff member, and allegedly, had a public outburst over his salary.
Smith has defended his behavior by claiming that he has been scapegoated by the local police.
“You’ve got to have a guy to point the finger at,” Smith told WLRN. “If I started that fight, I would have walked away. Because, one thing about it: My name is bigger than the job.”
Smith’s dismissal came at an inopportune time and also brought an end to a successful run on the field for the Jefferson football program. The former Seminole led Jefferson to its first playoff victory since 2011 in 2018.