Thursday, December 3, 2020

COVID Criminal? Texas Football Player Attacks Referee

Our series on abuse-of-officials continues in Texas, when Edinburg High School Football defensive end Emmanuel Duron became an alleged criminal after attacking a referee following his disqualification/ejection from Thursday's game, leading to police involvement.

After a late hit on the quarterback penalty and an additional unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, Edinburg High School senior and DE Emmanuel Duron appeared to forcefully shove referee Fred Garcia during Edinburgh's Thursday's playoff play-in game against Pharr-San Juan-Alamo following the white hat's penalty announcement.

Note: The technical officiating jargon here is disqualification, but for all intents and purposes (e.g., when comparing the action to something seen in professional baseball), the decision to remove the offending player from the game is on par with an ejection.

Following the alleged criminal act, local reporter Andrew McCulloch reported that a card had been brought on the field to assist the victim. Several minutes later, the referee stood up and walked off the field under his own power.

Law enforcement identifies Duron.
Although local reports indicated that police officers escorted Duron from the field, he was not handcuffed, no arrest was reported, the officers who escorted Duron from the stadium stated "No comment, we're not at liberty to talk about that," and after a delay, the game continued with Edinburg ultimately winning the contest, 35-21.

According to the National Association of Sports Officials (NASO)'s 2020 Legislative Scorecard, Texas is one of 22 states that have passed officiating assault and/or harassment laws, though Texas' law is not exclusive to officials and rather pertains to any person who participates in a sporting event (such as players).

It states that such intentional physical contact against someone who is a sports participant shall constitute a Class B misdemeanor; however, if the victimized referee is an elderly individual, the classification would increase to Class A.

In 2008, Euless Trinity High School player Eric Fieilo attacked an official in a similar manner—blindside hit during a playoff game, his last of senior year—and, as a result, was sent to an alternative school and lost scholarship offers. Fieilo, however, was not charged with a crime.

Does crime pay? After graduating from Sam Houston State, which opted to give Fieilo a football scholarship after all, Fieilo—having not been charged for his high school alleged assault—joined the Euless Police Department, which apparently had no issue with Fieilo's purported violent battery on a fellow citizen.

13% of officials have been assaulted.
After the potential purported criminal became a police officer, Fieilo had two human interest stories written about him: one by Dallas Morning News reporter Naheed Rajwani and a second by Fort Worth Star-Telegram's Bill Hanna. Both articles portrayed Fieilo's story as redemption, with Rajwani deeming him a "revered cop" who recovered from "his most embarrassing moment" and Hanna writing of Fieilo's "horrible decision."

Neither Rajwani nor Hanna mentioned Fieilo's victim and in lieu of apologizing to the man he admittedly attacked, Fieilo instead praised God for giving him a second chance and called the incident and its aftermath a "blessing."

Unfortunately, the official Fieilo hit wasn't asked to comment on how much of a "blessing" it was to have been the victim of a purportedly injurious violent crime.

Assaults on officials have resulted in several deaths over the years, including 2013's death of Utah soccer referee Ricardo Portillo at the hands of an unnamed player who he had issued a yellow card to moments earlier. In 2014, referee John Bieniewicz died after ejected player Baseel Abdul-Amir Saad allegedly punched him in the head.

So if you're ever debating about the importance of pressing charges when attacked, remember the name Elikena "Eric" Fieilo, the player who allegedly assaulted an official and instead of being charged with a crime, became a police officer in the very same town.


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