One of Texas’ longest tenured high school football referees has been suspended for the entire 2019 season after a series of recorded telephone conversations captured him using vile racist language.
As reported by the Houston Chronicle, among other sources, Mike Atkinson has been suspended for the 2019 season by the Texas Association of Sports Officials (TASO) after officials heard recordings that included Atkinson using racial epithets multiple times in reference to African American referees.
Atkinson has admitted to using the racist term, but claims the phrase was used in friendly banter with another referee who was also using it.
“I thought these were private conversations between friends,” Atkinson told the Chronicle. “I promise you with my life, using the N-word by me is true, but I will promise you with my life, my wife’s life, my kids’ life and everything I do, (the person who taped him) also used that word.
“We were back and forth. I understand what it sounds like, but I was baited into it.
“I’m a jokester. I like to listen to things. I watch Black Entertainment Television all the time because I think it’s hilarious. I may have picked up something … I don’t know. I don’t know.”
TASO executive director Michael Fitch released a statement to organization members in April detailing some of what occurred in the incident without revealing the officials involved.
“Members who make racially insensitive remarks reflect badly on TASO and the vast majority of TASO members find those remarks repugnant. TASO has and will take disciplinary action against any member displaying any racial prejudice by words or deeds. TASO will discipline any member though they claim they made the inappropriate remarks in jest.”
You can hear Atkinson’s comments in a recording on the Chronicle’s website right here. The most offensive sections were made in reference to a TASO chapter meeting happening at a Houston restaurant.
“I just went to the mixer the other day … a bunch of f—— n—–s wanting a free meal,” Atkinson said.
The context isn’t clear in the other clips, but they include the following statements:
“He would find a way to n—– it up.”
“There probably was some of them … (a black official) thought he had, ’cause he wanted to be the big n—–.”
Atkinson is a resident of Spring, Texas, outside Houston and has served as a high school football referee for 45 years. He now knows he won’t reach season 46 in 2019, barring an appeal.