A youth football organization has banned a coach for life after video surfaced this week of him assaulting a player during a game.
The video shows a coach of a 9-and-under team from Savannah, Georgia, twice striking one of his players in the helmet. Both an incident report obtained by Yahoo Sports and the coach’s now-former employer identified him as Gerrel Williams.
The incident occurred Monday during the Savannah Gators’ opening game at the American Youth Football (AYF) national championships in Kissimmee, Florida. AYF, in a statement to Yahoo Sports, said it received the video the following morning. It called Williams' actions a “complete breach” of its code of conduct, and said it had expelled him from all future events.
The Osceola County Sheriff’s Department also obtained video of the incident Tuesday. A responding officer made contact with the victim’s mother, who — according to the officer’s report — “advised she was aware of the incident, and specifically stated she did not want to press charges.”
On Friday, however, the Osceola County Sheriff’s Department charged Williams with child abuse.
Williams could not be reached for comment. In a video posted to Facebook on Wednesday, he apologized:
“At the end of the day, I am a man, and I’m not gon’ make no excuses for what I did,” he said in the video. “I was wrong. I shouldn’t have disciplined him in public — I shoulda waited ‘til he got back — for doing what he did.
“At the end of the day, I apologize to him, the kids, the city … and my family back at home. I do apologize. There’s no excuse for my actions. I hope he forgive me, and his parents have forgiven me.”
Williams also lost his job. The Chatham County (Ga.) Sheriff’s Office, where Williams was employed as a counselor in the detention center, terminated him after being made aware of the video.
“We reviewed the video, we did an internal investigation, we brought him in, we interviewed him and he is no longer employed,” a spokeswoman told Yahoo Sports. “We do not condone that type of behavior."
The incident occurred as the Gators were walking to their sideline at halftime. Williams approached an unidentified player and struck him in the helmet hard enough to knock him off balance. After turning away for a few moments, Williams struck the same player again and sent him sprawling to the ground. Williams then screamed in the player’s face for several seconds before grabbing him by the helmet and shoving him off the field.
The child’s mother told the Savannah Morning News she did not want to talk about the incident, but said she knows "that none of these coaches would harm [the] kids."
Video of the incident circulated quickly on social media throughout the week. It has drawn the ire of LeBron James, Shannon Sharpe and many others. In an Instagram post, James wrote, “Ain’t no way!! Couldn’t be my kid. Hell if I there and it’s not even my kid we gone have more than words for sure.”
Sharpe criticized the other adults in the video for standing around and doing nothing, tweeting “I’ll whip him even IF* that’s his kid. I won’t let anyone pray on the weak or vulnerable in front of me. Not going to happen.”
The AYF requires coaches to successfully complete criminal background checks before they can volunteer. Coaches also must also commit to upholding the AYF’s Code of Conduct, which prohibits physical and verbal abuse among other things.
The Savannah Gators have so far played one game without Williams at the AYF tournament since Monday’s incident. They are scheduled to play again Friday, according to the bracket on the AYF website.
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