Student Well-Being

H.S. Football Players Offer Explanation for Tackling Ref on ‘Good Morning America’

By Bryan Toporek — September 18, 2015 2 min read
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The two Texas high school football players who appeared to intentionally tackle a referee during a game earlier this month went on Good Morning America on Friday to explain their side of the story.

Michael Moreno and Victor Rojas, who have since been suspended from John Jay High School in San Antonio pending an upcoming disciplinary hearing, told George Stephanopoulos that they were simply following orders from assistant coach Mack Breed.

“I was doing what I was told,” Rojas explained to Stephanopoulos.

Moreno expounded upon the situation, alleging that Breed told him and another player, “You need to hit the ref. He needs to pay the price.” The two players allege that the referee, Robert Watts, had directed racial slurs at John Jay players prior to the incident.

“He told one of my Hispanic friends, ‘Speak English, this is America,’” Rojas claimed about Watts. He also alleged Watts used the “n-word” in reference to an African-American player. Both players said they personally heard Watts use that language, although Watts, through an attorney, has vehemently denied all such allegations.

Between Watts’ alleged use of racial slurs and some calls that went in the favor of John Jay’s opponent that night, Marble Falls High School, Breed allegedly commanded Moreno and another player to exact a measure of revenge. Moreno then enlisted Rojas as an accomplice, while the third player declined to join them.

“You put your trust into this grown-up, this guardian, your coach, who’s been there for me,” Moreno said in regard to following Breed’s alleged orders. "... I trust him. ... I did what I was told.”

Jesse Hernandez, the attorney for both Moreno and Rojas, told Stephanopoulos that the boys’ fate currently remains up in the air. As they await a disciplinary hearing, they’ve been temporarily transferred to an alternative school in the district, and the Marble Falls police department is still investigating the incident, with charges perhaps still to come. Watts’ attorney also said he’s considering pressing charges against the two boys.

In Hernandez’s view, though, the two boys have suffered enough as is.

“I think they’ve paid the appropriate punishment already,” Hernandez said. “They’ve suffered three days of suspension, they’ve been in alternative school for a week, they’re excluded from playing football for the rest of the season. I think that’s enough.”

Both boys told Stephanopoulos that if given the chance, they would takeback their actions. Breed has been placed on administrative leave, pending the outcome of the district’s investigation into the incident.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Schooled in Sports blog.