Two Texas football players accused of intentionally ramming into a referee during a high school game allege the referee directed racial slurs at them, school district officials said Tuesday.
The district, which previously suspended the two players, has placed an assistant coach on paid leave while it investigates allegations that he suggested there should be retaliation against the referee for missed calls, Northside Independent School District Superintendent Brian T. Woods said at a news conference.
The two suspended John Jay High School students, whose names aren't being released, will go through a disciplinary hearing and the incident will be treated as an assault on a school official, according to the school district.
"The incident is shameful and in no way reflects who Northside ISD and Jay High School are," Woods said.
The district, which has 105,000 students, is in the process of filing a complaint about the racial slur allegation with the Texas Association of Sports Officials, Woods said.
Michael Fitch, the association's executive director, didn't immediately return a call seeking comment on Tuesday. The name of the referee has not been made public.
Video from Friday's game between John Jay High School and Marble Falls High School showed the referee watching a play, and his head snapping back when he is leveled from behind. The other player then dove on top of him. The game took place in Marble Falls, located about 90 miles north of San Antonio.
Northside school district officials said that during the game, the suspended players "were feeling lots of frustration by what they perceived to be missed or wrong calls by the refs." The players also alleged the referee directed racial slurs at them.
The students allege that assistant coach Mack Breed, 29, said "that guy needs to pay for cheating us" or words to that effect, according to the district.
"The alleged comments by the coach are in no way a reflection of the John Jay coaching staff whatsoever. If that did happen, he let the emotions get the best of him," said Northside school district athletic director Stan Laing.
Breed didn't immediately respond to a voicemail message left Tuesday by The Associated Press.
Woods said if a racial slur was directed at the two players, the protocol should have been to let the lead official at the game know about it.
"We're obligated to use this as a teachable moment ... As educators, we've got to take this opportunity to teach our young people two wrongs don't make a right," Laing said.
The University Interscholastic League, which governs primary and high school sports and is working with the school district and officials on the investigation, said in a statement Tuesday that it supports the initial disciplinary measures taken by the Northside school district.
"Interactions between coaches, students and officials should always be respectful and an official's safety should never be compromised during a competition," the UIL said.
The Marble Falls police department, which is investigating the hit on the referee, will take at least a week to complete its probe, said Sgt. Tom Dillard.
Dillard said if charges are filed, it could be for misdemeanor assault, but that wasn't "chiseled into stone."