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Two Texas high school football players who appeared to target a referee in a game earlier this month have confirmed that they did hit the referee on purpose, and that they were acting on their coach's orders.
Victor Rojas and Michael Moreno told "Good Morning America" on Friday that they hit referee Robert Watts intentionally. Rojas said John Jay High School assistant coach Mack Breed told them to hit Watts and the attack was in response to Watts allegedly using racial slurs in reference to John Jay players.
A Target on His Back
Video of the hits surfaced two weeks ago, showing Rojas coming from behind and tackling Watts to the ground. Then Moreno dives in headfirst into Watts, striking him again. Rojas and Moreno were ejected from the game and suspended from school.
Addressing the incident on GMA, Moreno said that while he was on the sideline, Breed "pulled me and another player over and he told us, and I quote, 'You need to hit him.'" Moreno also said Watts was targeted because "racial slurs being thrown at players." Rojas claimed he heard Watts tell a Hispanic friend "to speak English, this is America," and both say they heard the referee call an African-American teammate the n-word. Through his lawyer, Watts has denied using any offensive language.
Rojas and Watts have yet to be charged with a crime in the incident, although law enforcement officials are investigating. The two could be charged with assault and/or battery. Assault refers to actions that intend to scare or injure someone else, while battery is generally defined as "offensive contact or touching."
While consent is often a defense to assault and battery charges, especially in the sports context, it's pretty clear that referees do not consent to contact from players, as evidenced by the fouls and penalties across all sports for intentionally making contact with a referee. Both Rojas and Moreno have apologized for the incident.