Texas high school football players Michael Moreno and Victor Rojas spoke publicly Friday for the first time since their blindside tackle of referee Robert Watts during a Sept. 4 game in San Antonio.
Moreno, 17, and Rojas, 15, were suspended for their transgressions but claim they were following orders from assistant coach Mack Breed to harm Watts.
“Most San Antonians didn’t think the two young men came across well,” ESPN San Antonio host Hector Ledesma said on CBS Sports Radio’s The DA Show. “They weren’t proud of the fact that both young men said, ‘Yeah, we were told to do it.’ Obviously that’s a little bit embarrassing that a coach in San Antonio would give that directive – if that indeed did happen – and they didn’t think the young men kind of articulated their side of the story very well.”
Moreno and Rojas, who play for John Jay High School, an inner-city school, claimed that Watts used racist language during the game.
“I knew of the allegations in terms of the racial slurs,” Ledesma said. “It’s evident to me that the coach – the head coach (Gary Gutierrez), not the coach who gave the directive to hit the referee – heard from his players early on in the game that this particular ref was using racial slurs. Now, why does that matter? It matters to this point: I, like a lot of other people in the immediate aftermath of seeing the video and hearing the players say that the ref had used those racial slurs, I thought, ‘They’re playing the race card.’ And as a Mexican-American in San Antonio, I thought, ‘That’s a shame.’ Because in San Antonio, Mexican-Americans make up the majority of the city, and I thought even in a city like this when it comes to a national story, you’ve got Mexican-Americans who are playing the race card. Well, (the head coach) was told of this by his players and then relayed that to an official earlier in the game, only to have the official come back to him and say, ‘We don’t do that around here. Play ball. That’s not going on here.’ And so, at the very least, it goes to show that these kids from the get go weren’t playing the race card.
“Now, one could ask: Were they lying? Were they looking for a reason to try to make up an excuse to hit the ref? That much I don’t know. I wasn’t on the sideline, but I do know this: There at least is a record of a coach saying to a ref before the hits that there were some racial slurs that were heard on the field.”
So we’ve got an adult allegedly telling players to harm a referee, and we’ve got an adult allegedly using racial slurs against teenagers. Both are hard to believe.
“I don’t know (which is true) – and that’s what I still got to find out,” Ledesma said. “Coach Reed has not commented publicly. I don’t know. I do know when the story first came out, I had a source who said he said something along the lines of ‘We’ve got to make them pay.’ Now within the context of what happened in that video, you can certainly link ‘We’ve got to make them pay’ to he gave a directive. Until this morning when the two young men said it, I had not heard anything else to that effect that the coach ordered these two students to go out and hit a player. Now are these two young men trying to put the blame on somebody else in the hopes that that is going to make their situation better? I don’t know. I don’t know these two young men well enough to come to that decision. But what I do know is over the course of a football game, several things are said and what I’ve got to piece together is what was said at what time in what context? Because again, ‘We’ve got to make these guys pay’ can come to mean a lot off different things in football.”