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Tuesday, Sep 19, 2017
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Sarasota youth football referee attacked by player, adults

SARASOTA - A referee's call in a youth football game over the weekend led to an attack on him during the contest by players, coaches and parents from one of the teams. The Sarasota County Sheriff's Office has identified four suspects. The suspects have been interviewed and they have cooperated with the investigation, said Sarah Kenniff, a sheriff's spokeswoman. The investigation hasn't been completed, but it could be finished by Friday, Kenniff said. No one has been charged at this time, she said. Detectives have also interviewed witnesses and the victim, referee Jayme Ream, 41, of St. Petersburg.
Ream initially signed a waiver of prosecution on Saturday after the incident and didn't want to press charges. But earlier in the week he withdrew the waiver of prosecution, Kenniff said. The melee occurred on the field just before halftime of a game Saturday afternoon between the Sarasota Gators and the North Port Huskies at Riverview High School in Sarasota. The players were 13 and 14-years-old. Debbie Ismail, a parent and treasurer for the North Port Huskies, said she was on the sideline at the time of the brawl. "It was unbelievable," Ismail said. "Very bad, poor sportsmanship. It was horrifying." In the video, Ream is seen fighting with another man, who appears to be a member of the Gators coaching staff. As the man falls to his knees, another man who also appears to be a coach on the Gators staff is seen grabbing Ream and pulling him away. A third member of the staff then tries to confront Ream, and a youth in a green shirt takes a swing at him. Ream starts to run away but a Gators football player runs at him at full speed, wraps his arms around him and slams him to the ground. The player hops next to the Ream as if egging him on to get up and fight. A woman's voice on the recording yells, "Oh, my God!" A man shouts through the public announcement system for people to get back. Adults converge on Ream who is still on the ground and start kicking him. He is eventually pulled away. By the end of the video, there are a number of people on the field – some are involved in the altercation and others are trying to restore order. Ismail said Ream was taken by ambulance to a local hospital. A woman who answered the phone at the Ream's home on Wednesday night said he's doing fine. Battery on a referee is a felony under state law. "The video speaks for itself," Sheriff's Col. Steve Burns said. "It was disturbing." Mike Cody, the coach for the North Port Huskies, spoke to his team a few days after the incident. "There was no excuse for it," Cody told his team. "One of the most disgraceful things I have ever seen in my 24 years of working with children." A representative for the Sarasota Gators declined to comment. The team is a member of the Mid-Florida Football and Cheerleading Conference. Scott Ferguson, a Sarasota County School District spokesman, said in the future the league won't play games on school district fields. "Under certain conditions, the league can practice on our fields, but they won't be able to play on our fields anymore," Ferguson said. James Hogan, president of the Middle Florida Football and Cheerleading Conference, the group that oversees the Gators and other youth football leagues, said players and coaches directly involved in the fight will never be allowed to participate in league activity again. The team might be allowed back in the league next year.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. jpatino@tampatrib.com (813) 259-7659

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