NFL legend Bruce Smith speaks out against youth coach who hit player, recalls his own abuse

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·3 min read

A shocking video showing a youth football coach twice striking one of his players has led to social media outrage, a lifetime ban, potential criminal charges and the coach losing his day job. Now, an inner-circle Hall-of-Famer is speaking out against the violence.

Bruce Smith, the NFL’s all-time leader in sacks, spoke to TMZ and called for the coach, Gerrel Williams, to face criminal charges. He also recalled his own experience being physically abused by a coach when he was a child.

The incident in question occurred Monday during the 9-and-under Savannah Gators’ opening game at the American Youth Football national championships in Kissimmee, Florida.

Smith’s initial response to the video:

I was taken aback. This was disturbing. In my opinion, it was an assault and it made me reflect back when I was attacked and dragged around a baseball field by a baseball coach as a young kid. Just as disturbing as this attack was, because coaches are supposed to protect kids, they are supposed to mentor kids and make sure they are in a safe environment, just as disturbing as the attack was, I was even more concerned and outraged that none of the other adults stepped in.

When asked about his own incident, Smith said scars recalled that his father took the baseball coach to court. The assault was the end of his time with the coach and team.

Smith also called out the adults that allowed Williams to openly strike his player:

My father ended up taking this coach to court rather than taking matters into his own hands. Sometimes parents and people choose to take matters into their own hands. But, in this particular situation, my father kept his emotions somewhat out of it to a certain extent and chose the path of letting the legal process handle it.

Needless to say, I never played for that coach or that team anymore but the scars still remain, and for this 9-year-old kid to have to endure something like this, and no one came to his aid, shame on them.

Smith went on to say Williams’ actions constituted assault, saying “a crime was committed.” Yahoo Sports reported Friday that the Osceola County Sheriff's Office has decided to press charges of child abuse against Williams despite the child’s mother asking for no charges.

Former Buffalo Bills defensive end Bruce Smith gestures after being elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame during a news conference Saturday afternoon Jan. 31, 2009 in Tampa, Fla.(AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
Bruce Smith is one of many outraged by a video showing a youth football coach striking a player. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

LeBron James and Shannon Sharpe are among the many others to decry the attack, with both implying they would get physical if they saw a coach doing the same thing in front of them.

When asked what he would have done if it was his own child in that situation, Smith immediately stated he did not want to talk about such a thing, but implied he would not show much restraint:

No. No. I don’t even want to have this discussion. No. I would have not had the restraint to not address this in my own way. I’ll just cut that conversation right off at the head.

You can see the rest of Smith’s interview here:

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