Texas police are investigating and prosecutors are "receptive" to filing an assault charge after two high school football players appeared to intentionally target a referee with vicious hits during the closing moments of a game on Friday.
Marble Falls police told FoxNews.com on Tuesday that no arrests have been made, but a misdemeanor assault charge could be pursued.
“I have spoken to a prosecuting attorney and he’s receptive to the idea of charges, subject to the findings of the investigation,” Sgt. Tom Dillard said. “The investigation is very preliminary right now.”
Cops have yet to speak to the John Jay High School defensive players who unleashed the hits during a 15-9 loss to Marble Falls, but police have talked to the referee involved and the referee who led the officiating crew during the game.
Both players have been suspended from the football team and from their San Antonio area school pending a due-process hearing Tuesday. The Texas University Interscholastic League is also investigating.
"Everybody in our industry saw that video and said, ‘Okay, that’s enough'"
- Barry Mano, founder National Association of Sports Officials
The two John Jay players can be seen delivering a blind side hit to back judge Robert Watts in a video that has since gone viral and prompted outrage from parents, educators and referees nationwide. The individuals involved weren’t immediately identified, but have since been named by multiple Texas publications.
Before the start of the play, the two players are positioned several yards behind Watts, who has his back turned to the players. Once the play begins, one player runs full speed into Watts, tackling him to the ground. As that player gets up, the second runs in and spears Watts, leading with his helmet. A motive for the alleged targeted hit has not been identified.
Watts was not treated or hospitalized for any injuries, according to the San Antonio Express-News.
One player was ejected after the play, but his teammate was not, as referees mistakenly identified a different player as having lodged the second hit. On an ensuing play, one of the players who hit Watts was penalized for a late hit on Marble Falls quarterback Cade Cool, who had taken a knee to run out the clock, according to the Houston Chronicle.
Watts, a veteran member of the Austin chapter of the Texas Association of Sports Officials, spoke with TexasHSFootball.com about the incident.
“I like to keep my officiating quiet; unfortunately this will be big news,” Watts said. “Libel and slander have already been committed against me. I will be contacting the appropriate people soon and any statement from me will come at a later date.”
Watts was “very upset” and “wanting to press charges,” Austin Football Officials Association secretary Wayne Elliott told The Associated Press on Sunday.
Watts has received swift and vocal support from his officiating brethren around the nation.
“These types of actions against any game official at any level are inexcusable,” NFL Referees Association Executive Director Jim Quirk said in a statement. “We fully support the suspensions of the players involved, along with a full and complete investigation by the Texas University Interscholastic League.”
"If you’re in this business, you have to love it when they ‘boo.’ You’re in the business of most often delivering negative news to somebody,” Barry Mano, founder of the National Association of Sports Officials and Referee magazine, told FoxNews.com.
“But violating our personal space is just simply not acceptable. What we saw in this video is just so beyond the pale it’s astonishing when you see it. Everybody in our industry saw that video and said, ‘Okay, that’s enough.’ There’s no way anything like this doesn’t have a commensurate consequence.”
Mano, who served as a basketball referee for 23 years, said that, while incidents of players targeting referees are rare in sports, they do happen -- they just typically aren’t caught clearly on video.
“With this one, because the video is there for the world to see, that’s why we’re experiencing this cry for some sort of resolution.”