WILKES-BARRE — Parents of children who play on a junior football team are upset the team has been disqualified from the upcoming playoffs due to a fight at a previous game that reportedly involved racial slurs.
The South Wilkes-Barre Mini Mohawks are part of the Wyoming Valley Junior Football Conference, which includes children up to age 14.
On Sept. 10, the Mohawks were playing the Pittston Junior Patriots at Albert West Memorial Park in Pittston when a fight broke out.
Patriots players were directing racial slurs at the Mohawks, according to a press release from the league.
After examining video footage, social media posts, and holding discussions with both teams, the league concluded that a player from the Mohawks crossed to the other side of the field and attacked a player from the Patriots after the game. That incident then led to further verbal and physical altercations where more players, coaches, cheerleaders and parents got involved.
The incident lasted for more than 10 minutes, and more than six police units were dispatched to the scene to restore order, the release says.
“This horrific incident began with issues that should have been addressed by both (teams) before violence occurred. If either (team) would have addressed the issue when the racial slurs began, the violence could have been avoided,” the league said in its statement.
League officials have decided to penalize both teams for their behavior by disqualifying them from the upcoming playoffs.
Ameerah Clark, whose sons play on the Mohawks, offered a different version of events. Clark said the mother of a Patriots player hit a Mohawks player. After the incident took place, she said the league suspended the Mohawks for a week and told them they would have to forfeit their next game as punishment. However, with good behavior for the rest of the season, she said the Mohawks were told they might be permitted to participate in the playoffs.
Clark said there were no other fights for the rest of the season, but the league is not backing away from its decision to disqualify the teams from the postseason.
“We didn’t even get the chance to have an appeal,” she said.
Clark also said that playing in the league means a great deal for some of the children.
“They take pride in what they do and to have it taken away when they’re having a winning season — I don’t think it’s fair.”
At a meeting at Miner Park on Tuesday, parents of children who play on the Mohawks gathered to discuss whether to fight the disqualification or just “shut up and move on from this,” said Clark.
It’s unclear if the league would hear an appeal.
The football conference also noted it permanently removed all coaches, parents, players and cheerleaders who engaged in the violence or used slurs.
In addition, it said the Patriots team was also suspended for one week as initial punishment.