ORANGE COUNTY, FL — A fine and player suspensions have been levied against Wekiva High School for its football team’s role in a post-game brawl some claim was triggered by a Blue Lives Matter flag, players kneeling during the national anthem and the hurling of racial slurs.
While no police reports or criminal complaints have been filed, the Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA) fined the team $500 and suspended 10 players from Wekiva High School for fighting after a state playoff game on Nov. 27.
In addition, Fox News reported that Wekiva High School has been placed on probation through June of 2022, one player is banned from competing for 12 months and all players must take a sportsmanship course.
Orange County deputies investigating brawl at Wekiva vs. Mitchell football region semifinal game https://t.co/cxKQaUQxQu— Sentinel Varsity (@osvarsity) December 1, 2020
The referees’ report on the fight, which is included in FHSAA documents obtained by the Orlando Sentinel, stated Wekiva High School players initiated a physical confrontation with New Port Richey Mitchell High School’s team.
The fight occurred immediately at the conclusion of a Class 7A region semifinal game, where Mitchell High School won 24-18.
BREAKING: Florida High School Athletic Association levied a $500 fine and 10 player suspensions against Wekiva High School for the football team’s role in a post-game altercation with visiting Mitchell HS (@MitchellHSFB) last week.https://t.co/ehbo4swpH4— Buddy Collings (@VarsityBuddy) December 3, 2020
Orlando Sentinel reported that a Facebook video showed Wekiva players running across the field toward Mitchell’s sideline, where pushing and shoving occurred and that punches appeared to be thrown by at least two Wekiva players and one Mitchell player.
Twitter user @Steven_Ryzewski posted a video that caught part of the confrontation and said:
“This is toward end of initial confrontation. Can see helmet(s) being thrown.”
The video shows a limping male in regular clothing walking toward the brawl and throwing two helmets at a Mitchell player, who is laying on the field.
The Mitchell player was accused by Wekiva players of using racial slurs throughout the game and reportedly had been punched “multiple times” according to two sources after the team took a knee for the final time to run out the clock.
Mitchell coach Andrew Schmitz told the Orlando Sentinel during a phone interview Monday afternoon:
“One of the [game] officials actually jumped on top of him to shield him after one of the helmets was thrown.
“As soon as the horn sounded, several of their kids came running across the field, and from there it was sort of a mass hysteria of us trying to get kids separated.”
According to Orlando Sentinel, multiple sources said the male who threw the helmets is a student at Wekiva High School.
In high school we were told we weren't allowed to kneel or we would be benched for the game and how "the principal wouldn't like it." We shouldn't be punished for KNEELING OR RAISING OUR FISTS. #BlackLivesMatter https://t.co/ZsfJ2TJyRF— Angel ♥ (@AngelQvintana) June 3, 2020
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What caused the brawl?
According to Orlando Sentinel, tensions began before the game started when Mitchell players ran onto the field waving a Blue Lives Matter flag.
However, Coach Schmitz confirmed to Tampa Bay Times that his team has been waving the flag for the last few years without a problem:
“We’ve been running out with that flag for several years.
“It goes back to a team that we had a couple of years ago that had several parents that were police officers. So, they started running out with it, and then (the tradition) has just kind of gotten passed down.
“I don’t understand how that’s part of the story, but whatever.”
This high school football team has run the Thin Blue Line flag onto the field at the games for two seasons as a tribute to a player's police officer father who died. Now it's being banned.— LawEnforcementToday (@LawEnforceToday) September 25, 2020
This kid needs us. Internet – do your thing.https://t.co/koBqmYI2Fm
In addition, the visiting crowd booed the Wekiva football players when most of them knelt during the national anthem.
Detroit Highschool football team gets garbage thrown at them and spit on for kneeling during anthem. Chaos ensues. pic.twitter.com/XfoMeW8bjD— Bad Goy Productions (@vitriolicgoy) December 3, 2019
Wekiva football players accused the Mitchell team of using racial slurs, which are thought to be the main reason for the melee. Orlando Sentinel reported that Wekiva senior linebacker Luther Johnson posted on Twitter that his teammates were called “black boy” and the N-word:
Nobody gives a damn who you coach or when you coached them Ik i wasn't apart of that brawl that happened after the game but I/my teammates were called a niggers/black boy the whole game. Is that they way you coached them for the past 10-11 years sir?— Luther Johnson (@RB_assassin02) November 29, 2020
Some speculated that the situation was just a case of sour grapes with Wekiva being upset about losing.
Actually those words were used💯— Luther Johnson (@RB_assassin02) November 29, 2020
Twitter user @msprissyglam suggested one school was racist:
“This is the aftermath of a predominantly white school calling the football players of a predominantly black high school the n-word and “black boy” repeatedly on the field. Address that!”
Johnson agreed with her statement and replied, “Thank You 100.”
Thank You💯— Luther Johnson (@RB_assassin02) November 28, 2020
Others suggested the racist accusations were unfounded as Mitchell’s team has several black players on it and that the incident was a case of bad sportsmanship.
Yeah, this would be surprising to me. Were they whispering this, because a) it would be a penalty/ejection and b) Mitchell has several black players who probably wouldn't be ok with their teammates saying that word, even if it was to the opposing team.— SC (@PullingGuard79) November 29, 2020
A parent of a Wekiva player, A.G. Waseem, told Orlando Sentinel that racist slurs — not bad sportsmanship — were the real reason for the brawl:
“They were calling our boys the N-word the whole time. The coaches told the referees and warned them in the third quarter that things could get out of hand because of it.
“The kids didn’t handle the situation properly, but this wasn’t a thing where the team lost and then ran across the field because of bad sportsmanship.”
Florida HS bans football team's police BLUE LINE flag after critics deem it "openly racist"— poetWOAgun (@poetWOAgun) September 23, 2020
The school principal is a JACKASS for banning the flag
School should be educating the public & the students it’s OK to SUPPORT THE POLICE#FakeLastWishhttps://t.co/9jHTFVah7X
However, Schmitz, who is in his seventh season as Mitchell’s head coach, said he heard nothing from referees about his players using racial slurs during the game:
“The majority of my kids are two-year starters who have now played 23 games together, and at no point during any of those games has an opposing player or coach or referee warned us or said they’ve heard anything like that.
“I feel like if it would have been happening during the game, someone would have pushed somebody or gotten in somebody’s face about it, but there was none of that.”
The Mitchell High football team’s pursuit of a state championship isn’t expected to be impeded by an ugly incident immediately following its victory Friday night at Wekiva High. https://t.co/hcT84ufLuz— Tampa Bay Times (@TB_Times) December 1, 2020
Schmitz also told Tampa Bay Times that as his team began to celebrate its win, his players were attacked:
“And then all of a sudden, one of their kids from the sideline, didn’t have a jersey on, comes sprinting across the field and just attacks one of our kids.
“About three more of their kids followed, and they were all from the other sideline. And then all of the sudden, the kids that were on the field, their defense, followed them over there. It just turned into mass hysteria. We had kids getting helmets thrown at them.”
Schmitz said he discussed this matter with his team before practices this past week.
President @realDonaldTrump recognizes two #Ohio high school football players who were suspended from school for carrying a ‘thin blue line' flag and 'thin red line’ flag onto their football field before a game pic.twitter.com/GaHmwERTfs— Team Trump (Text TRUMP to 88022) (@TeamTrump) September 22, 2020
The Orange County Sheriff’s Office said no criminal complaint had been filed and no reports were taken, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
The Orange County Public Schools stated in an email to Orlando Sentinel:
“Orange County Public Schools values good sportsmanship and will continue to look for opportunities to reinforce the importance of sportsmanship with student athletes.
“The district is looking into the incident. However, we cannot comment regarding student discipline due to student privacy laws.”
POLICE NEWS: NEPTUNE BEACH, FL: THIN BLUE LINE FLAG BANNED BY FLETCHER HIGH SCHOOL DEEMED RACIST: I WILL JUST LEAVE THIS HEAR: 🤬🤡 https://t.co/u3AbLLp8Qw— DIANE (@POLICEINFLA) September 23, 2020
According to Orlando Sentinel, fighting and physical attacks are classified as a Level III offense by the school system and can subject a student to potential suspension and removal from extracurricular activities.
“It was the craziest thing I’ve seen in high school athletics. It was mass hysteria there for a few minutes that obviously was out of control, but almost got even more out of control. It was a scary situation.”
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