A Florida high school football game that featured the Blue Lives Matter flag and anthem kneeling ended up in a brawl

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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.

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.

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.

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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.”

In addition, the visiting crowd booed the Wekiva football players when most of them knelt during the national anthem.

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:

Some speculated that the situation was just a case of sour grapes with Wekiva being upset about losing.

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.”

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.

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.”

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.”

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.

Orlando Sentinel reached out to Wekiva athletic director Bobby Biaggi and head coach Rich Bedesem twice, but they did not respond to a request for comment on the situation.

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.”

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.

Schmitz said:

“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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