Police chief: Arrests unlikely in basketball brawl unless a police report is filed

The Emerson (Ga.) police department is looking into Sunday’s wild brawl between referees and a Chicago-based youth basketball team.
The Emerson (Ga.) police department is looking into Sunday’s wild brawl between referees and a Chicago-based youth basketball team.

No individuals have reported to police that they were the victims of a crime during Sunday’s violent brawl between referees and a Chicago-based youth basketball team, Emerson (Ga.) police chief Kyle Teems told Yahoo Sports on Tuesday evening.

Unless that changes, Teems said it’s unlikely police will arrest any of the players, coaches or referees who traded blows with one-another late in a tournament game held at the LakePoint Sports Complex in Emerson, Georgia.

“We’re looking into it, but at this point we haven’t had anyone come forward as far as filing a report,” Teems told Yahoo Sports. “If you don’t have a victim, it’s hard to prosecute somebody for the crime.”

Teems decided to investigate the melee after watching a series of clips of it on social media Sunday evening. He has yet to obtain security footage showing the entire incident from start to finish, but he intends to keep gathering information for the next couple weeks.

“It’s hard to get any witness information because everyone is out of state,” Teems said. “I don’t know where it will go from here. We’ll keep looking into it to see if there’s enough to move forward with it.”

The incident is a priority for the Emerson police department in part because of the national attention that it has received. Video of the mayhem spread with startling speed on Sunday and became fodder for the national media within a matter of hours.

The brawl took place in the final minute of a game between the Houston Raptors and Chicago’s Raw Athletics, two under-17 non-scholastic basketball teams participating in The Association tournament.

Eyewitnesses told Yahoo Sports on Sunday that tempers flared after a Raw Athletics player disputed a foul call by complaining vehemently and shoulder-bumping the referee who blew the whistle. When the referee assessed a technical foul, the player allegedly responded by throwing a punch, setting off the first in a series of scrums.

“When I looked up, the kid was swinging at the ref,” Raptors coach Bobby Benjamin said. “At that point I told my assistant coaches to get our kids on the other side of the court. I didn’t want them involved in that at all.”

When the referee squared up as though he was going to retaliate, a member of the Raw Athletic staff tackled him. Three Raw Athletic players then surrounded the referee as he lay prone on the ground, leading an official from an adjacent court to run over, intervene and ultimately restart the shoving and fisticuffs anew.

In a since-deleted tweet from a now-deleted Twitter account, Raw Athletics coach Howard Martin blamed referees for goading his players into an altercation and needlessly escalating the situation. Martin did not return a message from Yahoo Sports on Tuesday seeking comment regarding how he intends to discipline his players and whether Raw Athletics intends to participate in any tournaments during the all-important July evaluation period.

July is traditionally a critical month for high school prospects seeking scholarship offers from Division I colleges. The three weekends during the July live period represent one of only two times all year that the NCAA allows Division I coaches to attend AAU tournaments run by shoe-apparel companies and evaluate prospects in person.

An NCAA spokeswoman told Yahoo Sports on Wednesday morning that she would look into whether Raw Athletics will be allowed to participate in any NCAA-certified events this month. NCAA rules regarding requirements for certified events focus largely on amateurism issues and do not include anything related to the conduct of teams that are participating.

One event that Raw Athletics won’t be playing in is next year’s The Association tournament. Director Josh Miley said Tuesday he won’t invite them back.

As for the referees, it’s unclear if they’ll be allowed to work again right away. Miley declined comment until he finishes his investigation and a spokeswoman for the LakePoint Sports Complex said that it’s the tournament director who hires referees.

“This kind of incident is a rarity at LakePoint, as this is the first such incident in our fifth season of hosting events,” the spokeswoman said.

“We are disappointed that athletes at a tournament behaved this way. This behavior is not tolerated at LakePoint. The safety and security of our athletes, families and staff is paramount.”

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Jeff Eisenberg is a college basketball writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!