LOCAL NEWS

Youth football referee punched over call in Layton shares message

Sep 12, 2022, 11:28 PM | Updated: 11:35 pm

LAYTON, Utah — A youth football referee is speaking out, saying a player punched him in the neck at a game last weekend, and he is sharing a larger message for parents in the youth football community. It’s the latest reported incident of bad behavior around the field in one weekend.

Nate Lewis said he’s been coaching and refereeing youth football games for over a decade.

For him, the love of the game is really about the love of the kids.

He said he enjoys “watching the kids celebrate successes and watching them grow and develop.”

The first group of kids he ever coached, Lewis said, graduated high school last year. He said he likes to watch them have fun and succeed.

This season so far, Lewis explained noticing that passion on the sidelines during youth football games has been turning into tension.

“The emotion and the verbal attacks and the things they’re saying are different. It’s more personal, and it’s focused more on what call was made or wasn’t made. And I’m noticing that a lot more this year,” he said.

On Saturday in Layton, Lewis recounted how he was refereeing a Ute Conference game, when he said a 15-year-old player was ejected from the game for unsportsmanlike behavior.

“I had mentioned to him that he needed to calm down and let the adult help him. And his behavior just continued to escalate,” Lewis explained.

The player said he had calmed down, and Lewis said, at that point, the adult let the player go.

“He took two steps and punched me,” Lewis said, describing what happened next. “And then luckily, other adults were there and stepped in and were able to intervene and escorted him away from the field.”

Lewis said he was punched in the neck/throat area, and that Ute Conference was great in their quick response and couldn’t have handled the situation any better post-incident.

But he has concerns over what led up to it.

Lewis said the game had become emotional, and referees were warning coaches that it was becoming emotional, but he didn’t see enough intervention to calm those emotions.

“It’s more about the behavior that led to this and the adult interaction,” he said. “As things were escalating, the adults could have stepped in and de-escalated it quicker. As officials, we were left out there on our own and there wasn’t a lot of help.”

KSL reported how a situation boiled over in Herriman Saturday at a Ute Conference Football game, also involving rising tensions. Witnesses said it appeared coaches and parents rushed the field. A couple attending a different game to watch a grandson play said they saw punches thrown and a third witness described the fight as a “brawl.”

Herriman police investigating parent brawl on field during youth football game

A video sent to KSL by two sources who wanted to remain anonymous shows the entirety of the fight. Adults are seen running onto the field after a referee’s call. Several more start sprinting onto the field, and then people begin pushing each other with arms flailing in some cases. At one point, a crowd of people is pushing each other around with referees caught up in the chaos.
People are screaming profanities, as other adults attempt to break up the instigators and move people away from each other.

Ute Conference investigated the fight and reviewed footage of the game. On Monday, the organization determined that no punches were thrown and no brawl ensued, but that coaches and parents were on the field “acting in an unruly and unsportsmanlike manner.”

“The UC will act swiftly with ejections and suspensions for violating our code of conduct and rules of civility.  Unfortunately, people should never act like this at any sporting event, especially a 9-year-old football game,” Ute Conference Executive Director Jeff Gorringe wrote in a statement.

As far as the incident with Lewis in Layton, Gorringe wrote in a message that they will not discuss situations that pertain to minors.

“We do not condone bad behavior of any kind and will deal with appropriately,” he wrote.

The incident in Herriman, paired with what Lewis experienced, is why he’s urging parents, coaches and other adults at youth football games not to fuel tensions or let emotions escalate.

He said the kids are having fun and seeing emotions off the sideline and feeding off of it. He firmly believes that sideline behavior is what can trigger situations like the one he ended up in with the player.

Lewis is asking parents to do their best to focus on the game and not emotions around the game.

“The volatility in the parents and the coaches is where this starts,” he said. “It’s about coaches helping us control the sidelines, and parents realizing if you can’t be there to support and cheer on your children, then there’s something to be looked at there.”

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Youth football referee punched over call in Layton shares message