by: NICK ALVARADO/Editorial Assistant
In the state of Texas, football is not just a sport, it’s a religion.
Small towns thrive on football, as their residents can’t wait for Friday to come as their team takes the field. There’s the bands playing, cheerleaders supporting their team to victory, the crowd cheering the team on, and nagging the referees when a bad penalty is called.
Referees play a vital role in high school sports and are always receiving the bad side of coaches and fans. What fans don’t know is that referees get paid very little to officiate the game they are calling. In some instances, referees just get paid enough to cover the cost of their gas when traveling to the game. Some referees are volunteers and fill-ins.
Referees are credited when they get the penalties right and receive high praise from the fans and coaches. But when calling a penalty perceived as incorrect, everyone yells. Everyone has seen this firsthand at a high school game, collegiate sporting event and at the professional level. But one high school’s athletes took a bad call the wrong way on a referee.
In the town of Marble Falls, Texas, a high school game was scheduled on Sept. 4 between the hometown team and John Jay High School in San Antonio. This game was predicted to be a tight game on paper, and coaches expected it to be a great one. But one particular event in the game occurred that no one would expect.
During the game, two players were ejected on separate plays. During an ensuing play, two players from John Jay High School targeted a referee and tackled him from behind. The video of the incident received national attention within a weekend. The two players have come out and alleged that the referee used a racial slur.
The parent school district of John Jay, Northside Independent School District, suspended the two players on Sept. 6. The Marble Falls Police Department also launched an investigation of their own, as the two players could potentially face criminal charges. The University Interscholastic League, which is the governing body of all public high schools in Texas, held a hearing on Sept. 9 and announced they have never received a complaint on the referee about using a racial slur and will look into what happened as well. During that hearing, the UIL never announced the punishment for the two players.
A week after the incident, a player from a private school in San Antonio kicked a referee and was ejected from the game. Referees, not only in Texas but nationwide, are being mistreated at sporting events when all they are doing is their job.
The investigations into the Marble Falls-San Antonio Jay game are still ongoing. The Northside ISD School District has expelled the two players from school and athletics. An assistant coach has been put on administrative leave, pending investigations, after allegations surfaced about him encouraging the referee hit.
The player at the private school in San Antonio has been kicked off the team. Refereees are becoming fewer in number across the state, and Texas is in a severe shortage of referees. Fans need to realize that the “zebras” do not get paid enough to call the games. Referees should be recognized before every game, as refs are volunteering to call the games since they love the sport so much. Referees should be honored before every game because they are also at risk of serious injury just like the players.