Following a brutal referee-targeting incident at a Texas high school earlier this month, a Tennessee high school football player has also been suspended for allegedly targeting and hitting a referee during a game.
Glencliff High School player Malcolm Easley, the son of the team's head coach, collided with referee Kyle Gill in the second quarter of a game against Gallatin High School last Friday in Glencliff, Tennessee. Easley was flagged and his team was penalized 15 yards for his hit, which Gill believes was done on purpose.
"I had spoken to the player on the play before and he told me that I was in his way," Gill said to The Gallatin News in a story published on Tuesday.
Footage of the play preceding the hit, obtained by The Gallatin News, shows Easley moving behind Gill to the left of a running play, appearing to touch the referee's waist with his hands at the end of the run.
Gill's refereeing position on that play clearly blocks Easley's path to the ballcarrier, but he believes the player should know how to navigate the field without being impeded by the referee.
"I asked him how long he'd been playing football and he had to realize that the referees are part of the field. I told him that he should have to avoid me and not the other way around," Gill said.
Although NBC's local affiliate WSMV-4 initially reported that Easley had been suspended indefinitely by the school, a review of the incident by Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association (TSSAA) found no malicious intent or targeting on Easley's part.
“You look at it and break it down as much as you can, but our staff reviewed it several times and basically the player is running in the direction of the ballcarrier and he hit the official," TSSAA assistant executive director Matthew Gillespie said to The Tennessean.
Following their review, no further punishment was handed down by the TSSAA, so Easley's school ultimately decided on a one-game suspension, his father Brandon told The Tennessean.
Gill, however, believes he was targeted, as he claims to have warned Easley about getting so close to him prior to the hit. Evidently, the TSSAA didn't know about Gill's warning when they reviewed the footage.
"We are not aware of that at all," Gillespie told The Gallatin News. "Probably would've been in [the] official's report if that were the case, and it was not."
For his part, Easley's father ensured that his son wouldn't run into a referee again.
“We don’t train kids to go after officials in the middle of a football game. He will do everything possible to make sure that incident that happened Friday night will never happen again.”
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