Opponents of an unbeaten youth football team in Ohio have refused to take the field against the team anymore, leading to the cancellation of the league’s championship game and stunning revelations of racism and physical abuse in a story posted Friday.
The Elyria (Ohio) Mini Pioneers finished their season 8-0 in the North Ridgeville Football League, but according to a report in the Elyria Chronicle-Telegram, the team of 10- and 11-year-olds will not participate in the league’s championship festivities this weekend because no one will play the team.
According to the story, the director of the league’s junior tackle division says coaches and parents of the other teams out of fear of injury for their players. The Elyria team, however, contends the issue has more to do about race.
Adding to the situation is an incident that is alleged to have occurred during an Elyria game on Oct. 29. There are allegations that North Ridgeville parents and coaches used racial slurs toward Elyria players, and that a North Ridgeville assistant coach ran onto the field and punched an 11-year-old player in the stomach.
North Ridgeville police Capt. Marti Garrow told the Chronicle-Telegram that a police report of the incident was not available for release and that the incident was still under investigation. He told the newspaper, “It kind of comes down to a ‘he said, she said’ situation that we are trying to sort out. It was a youth football game that obviously got out of hand with parents coming on the field and coaches getting involved.”
North Ridgeville junior tackle division director Chris Miscudo told the Chronicle-Telegram of the other teams’ refusal to play: “They just feel they are outmatched athletically and physically. (Elyria has) outplayed every other team based on how their teams are picked. Elyria is a premium travel team, and our teams are drafted in a blind draft. It has nothing to do with color or race or anything. Parents feel their kids are so physically outmatched they are going to get hurt.”
But people from Elyria say it has to do with race, not fear for the children’s safety. John Dixon, program director for the Pioneers club, told the paper,
“I feel like they didn’t want us out here from the beginning, and it hit a boiling point on Saturday. I have parents working the first down markers and those are the ones catching the racial slurs and remarks going on. Parents have told me about this all season, but we have remained focused on the game.”
But focus — and all control — was lost at that game Saturday. The Chronicle-Telegram’s spoke with Eric Kara, the mother of the 11-year-old allegedly punched by a coach, and offered this account:
“We were winning like 20-0 when a play was called for my son to try and sack the quarterback, and he did just that,” Kara said.
When the play was over, Kara said the assistant coach came off the sideline, onto the field and approached the kids. He was screaming and irate.
The referee ejected the coach from the game and told him to leave the field, she said.
The very next play, Kara said, her son made another tackle and there was a pileup.
“This guy immediately ran from the parking lot, ran onto the field, picked my son up by the shoulder pads, drew him in closer, and punched him in the stomach,” she said.
She said her son arched over.
“He was in immediate pain, screaming and crying,” Kara said.
Kara said her son also began spitting up blood.
The North Ridgeville Fire Department was called, and the boy was taken to University Hospitals Elyria Medical Center, where he was treated for a blunt-force abdomen injury, Kara said.
Kara said she followed up with her pediatrician Tuesday and was told her son, a fifth-grader at Elyria Community School, had a bruised rib and abdominal tenderness.
Kara added that as her son was being loaded into the ambulance, “parents were driving by screaming at us, saying, ‘That’s what you get. That’s what you deserve. You played dirty.”
She also claimed that players on another team called the Elyria boys the N-word, “animals,” and “monkeys” during a game two weeks earlier, according to the newspaper.
While the paper spoke other adults who claimed the Elyria players were subjected to racial slurs during games. But Miscudo told the paper that the claims of racism were news to him.
“That seems odd to me,” he told the paper. “I know there are ignorant people in this world that will say some things, but obviously we don’t condone that kind of thing, and if we hear those things, it is addressed immediately. We are a football team in North Ridgeville and it’s 2016; there are all kinds of races of kids that play on our teams. It is disappointing to me to see people making it about race.”