After just one day into the high school and college football season, we now have several examples of cheap shots and concussions to write about. However, the most disturbing is the play in the video below which shows two players in a high school team attack a referee. The incident took place during a game at Marble Falls High School, northwest of Austin. The attacking players are from John Jay High, in San Antonio's large Northside Independent School District. Their team was losing and the referee had called at least one penalty on the team before the two players apparently decided to take matters into their own hands.
As any first semester law student knows, there are some cases that discuss the fine line between battery and contact within the customs of a sport. In negligence language, it is often said that players assume the inherent risks of the sport. For the same reason, so do the umpires and refs. I don't think anyone would dispute that baseball umpires assume the risk of getting hit by balls, having runners run into them and getting yelled at or criticized by players. These are known risks. In football, some of the refs have to be positioned close to the plays and it is not uncommon to be pushed or run over.
However, I don't think that refs assume the risk of being intentionally attacked from behind by players. The conduct of the players involved in this video is inexcusable. They should be expelled from the team and if their conduct was suggested or even condoned by their coaches, they (the coaches) should be fired. There is no place for this in sports. Knowing what we know about concussions in football, this vicious attack on the ref could have caused him serious injury.
The Marble Falls Police Department is conducting an investigation and I will try to update this post when I hear more.
UPDATE (Sept. 7, 2015): ESPN is reporting that the two players who attacked the ref have been suspended from the team and from school pending the investigation. It also reported that the Austin Football Officials Association wants to make sure the two players are not allowed to play football again. I would support that decision. Slate also has the story here. NPR has an update here.
UPDATE (Sept. 8): Slate is now reporting two new pieces of information: the students are claiming the ref used a racial slur toward them and the school district it is treating the incident as an
assault on a school official, an offense that could lead to expulsion.