The game between the Olney Bears, a team with predominantly Black and Hispanic children, and the North Carroll Colts, which predominantly was composed of white children, took place in Christmas Tree Park in Manchester, Maryland, on Sept. 25.
Police and North Carroll Rec Council officials say they have so far found no evidence that racism played a part in the scuffle.
Multiple parents who spoke with ABC News described a tense environment that was heightened because parents from both teams were on the same sideline.
Olney was winning when a heated disagreement over a referee’s call exacerbated tensions and referees called off the game early, according to police and multiple witnesses who added that the brawl broke out as coaches, parents and players walked off the field.
“[The game] disgustingly ended with approximately 30 persons in a melee, which is a very rare occurrence,” Manchester Police Chief John Hess told ABC News on Sunday. “The single officer on scene at the start was forced to use pepper spray to defuse the situation because his clear verbal commands were ignored, and the melee was escalating as he was waiting for multiple support units to arrive.”
Criminal charges and disciplinary action
According to court documents and police, Nicole Starr Ellis, 31 and Keith Gregory Lockner, 32, each were charged with second-degree assault against against a 13-year-old Black player.
According to the District Court of Maryland for Carroll County, a trial is scheduled for Dec. 7. Joseph Ashley, an attorney representing Ellis, told ABC News on Wednesday that his client denies “all allegation of uttering racial epitaphs and of assaulting anyone.” Attorney Frank Turney, who’s representing Lockner, declined to comment to ABC News on Thursday.
According to court documents obtained by ABC News, a 13-year-old Olney player whose name was withheld to protect his identity, allegedly was punched by Lockner. Ellis is accused of assaulting KC Robinson, the son of Olney head coach Kirk Robinson.
The Carroll County Youth Football League to which both teams belong told ABC News that the executive board launched an investigation last month that’s so far led to the expulsion or suspension of several individuals associated with both teams.
“As additional details emerge the CCYFL will continue to evaluate and take further actions as necessary,” the executive board said in a statement to ABC News. “The League has a zero-tolerance policy for any physical altercations on its sidelines and unfortunately the decisions made by a few adults has impacted the season.”
The league would not disclose the names of those who faced disciplinary action, but Kirk Robinson confirmed that he was one of them.
According to Robinson, he initially was suspended for two games for using foul language during the game after he disagreed with a refereeing decision, but later he was banned for life from coaching in the league or attending games.
Robinson told ABC News he thinks that decision is unfair because he was defending his family.
“My job is to protect the kids that are on the field … and I’m paying the consequences for it,” he added. “You can’t tell me that any adult is going to be OK with — whether their child’s Black or white — being assaulted by another adult.”
Robinson’s wife, Amanda Robinson, told ABC News she witnessed the alleged assault against the first child.
LaTasha Robinson, KC Robinson’s mother, said that following confrontations involving Ellis, Lockner and parents of Olney players, there was pushing and shoving as they walked through the crowd. Amid the commotion, she said KC fell to the ground after he was allegedly assaulted by Ellis.
“He was upset, he was hurt,” LaTasha Robinson said. “You don’t just swing into a crowd and there’s kids there.”
Allegations of racism
Several individuals associated with the Olney team who were present at the game, including family members of the two 13-year-olds who were allegedly assaulted, claimed that their children were subjected to racial slurs by North Carroll players and parents.
Tamisha, the sister of the first child who was allegedly assaulted, told ABC News that her brother was crying so hard afterward that he “couldn’t even catch his breath.”
Tamisha said that her brother scored two touchdowns, and as tensions were getting high before the scuffle broke out, he and his teammates were being taunted throughout the game by individuals associated with North Carroll.
“I went over to him originally … and I just asked him if he was OK, and he said, ‘They’re calling me the N-word, they’re calling us the N-word, They’re taunting us.’ And I said, don’t worry about that, go to your coaches, just stay with them,” she said.
Hess told ABC News there is no evidence of racial slurs on various spectator videos obtained by police, but it’s unclear how much footage is out there and the criminal case is still open.
North Carroll Rec Council President Andy Kiler told ABC News on Sunday that the North Carroll Colts executive board took disciplinary action against several individuals, but “racist remarks have not been found, which includes an investigation by police that included video and conversations with those at the event.”
“NCRC takes all accusations of any type of discrimination very seriously, and we do not tolerate that type of behavior within our programs,” he added. “Our review has concluded unless new information is brought to our attention.”
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