High school player accused of helmet bashing reportedly says opponent cheated, used racial slur

Supporters of a New Jersey high school football player who was removed from his team for swinging his opponent’s helmet and hitting him on the head, claimed Thursday the player cheated and used a racial slur, according to a published report.

The 18-year-old Linden High School player had told the referee during last Friday’s game that the lineman on the Immaculata High School team was driving head first into him with his helmet, Dondi Givens, a family friend of the teen and activist in the town, told NJ.com.

The Linden teen’s mother, Anita McDuffy, said her son told her that the opposing player repeatedly used a racial epithet toward him. Her son was more upset by the alleged spearing than the language, she said.

Salaam Ismial, director of the Elizabeth-based United Youth Council, told The Associated Press that players from both teams had been battling all game Sept. 11 and the Linden player didn’t mean to hurt the other teen.

"Things like this happen in football. He didn't go up to hurt this kid. They were two bulls tangling," Ismial said.

The video of the incident shows the Linden player, pulling off the helmet of the opposing lineman, then swinging the helmet and hitting the player in the head. The Immaculata player ended up going to the hospital to receive 10 stitches to close a wound caused by the blow, according to NJ.com.

Neither player was ejected from the game.

McDuffy said the original punishment for her son was a 10-day suspension and removal from the team for two days. However, the punishment became more severe after the story became national news, she said.

"He really is apologetic about this. He said his hand got stuck in the helmet. I believe in my child," McDuffy told reporters at a news conference Thursday. "If it was so bad, which it was a bad incident, they should have taken him out of the game. They allowed him to play the third and fourth quarter. He apologized to the student."

NJ.com reports Linden police investigated the incident for possible criminal charges and turned the results over to the Union County Prosecutor’s Office.

Linden Superintendent Danny Robertozzi said after a thorough investigation of the incident, he decided on Wednesday the player should be removed from the team.

"This is by far the most serious incident I've ever encountered," Robertozzi said. He said the decision to kick the player off the team was final.

Immaculata said it received an apology from Linden school officials, and McDuffy said her son planned to apologize to the school.

Immaculata won the game 26-6.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.