Howard Martin does not endorse the violence that erupted during a weekend basketball tournament in Bartow County and was captured in a now viral video.
However, the video, which has been viewed more than 530,000 times since Sunday’s brawl at the LakePoint Sporting Facility in Emerson, doesn’t tell the whole story, he said.
“It’s just disgusting to watch something boil to this point when we are trying to do something for kids,” said Martin, the coach of the Chicago R.A.W. Athletics team involved in the fight.
In the clip, high school-aged players can be seen hitting a referee. Players and coaches told Channel 2 Action News the blows came toward the end of a semifinal game between R.A.W. Athletics and the Houston Raptors.
The referee handed out a technical foul before ejecting a R.A.W. Athletics player.
“One of my players, he had words with the referee,” Martin said. “I think he was complaining about a call or something.”
Several people, including the coach of the opposing team, saw the player and the official collide. Houston Raptors coach Bobby Benjamin described it to the news station as “a shoulder bump.”
“The player was walking back toward the bench, the referee pushed the player, and they squared up,” Martin said.
What happened next can be seen in the video. Players and several referees exchange blows, with one referee ending up on the floor, shirtless, with several players on top of him.
Martin thinks the referee should have used better judgment rather than escalate the situation by fighting back.
“I’m not condoning anything that happened, anything my players did,” Martin said. “But at the end of the day, as a man, you've got to be a little bit wiser.”
R.A.W. Athletics was thrown out of the tournament, Channel 2 reported. The opposing team advanced to the championship game and lost.
The athletic center that hosted the tournament said on Twitter it would be “taking the appropriate action with authorities.”
“At this time no individual has made a report of the incident,” Emerson police Chief Kyle Teems told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “However, after seeing the incident on social media, we, along with LakePoint Security, are looking into the incident.”
Contrary to media reports, the tournament was not an Amateur Athletic Union event, according to the organization.
“The incident at the non-AAU basketball event in Georgia is unfortunate,” Dr. Roger J. Goudy, the organization’s president and CEO, said in a statement. “The AAU organization takes the safety and well-being of our athletes, coaches and officials very seriously. Any such behavior is never tolerated at licensed AAU events and, for those groups who fraudulently represent themselves as AAU, we will pursue all legal remedies.”
This is the second brawl involving a youth basketball game in Georgia in recent weeks. A 13-year-old Cobb County girl suffered a concussion during a fight at a June 24 summer league game in south Fulton County.
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