SARASOTA, Florida -- A video clip has gone viral that shows a fight at a youth football game last weekend between the Sarasota Gators and the North Port Huskies. But now, the Gators are speaking out to 10 News and they claim the video doesn't tell the whole story.
Coach Timothy Howard, who is among the four people who have been charged in the incident, says the referee threw the first punch.
"He was running pretty fast and I guess his momentum knocked Dexter on the ground and he stood over him and punched him six or seven times," he says. "The video didn't show all the assaults that were going on to our cheerleaders. And one of the charges I did get is because I restrained somebody that had one of our cheerleaders in a headlock."
Referee Jayme Ream was knocked down and injured in the brawl. His wife and lawyer are not commenting on the claim that he started the incident.
On Sunday, dozens of Gators leaders, athletes, cheerleaders, and parents gathered at Newton Estates Park to support one another and to express their outrage at how the situation has played out.
Because of the fight, the Sarasota Gators have been suspended for the remainder of the season. In order to play next year, the team will have to apply with the Mid-Florida Football and Cheerleading Conference.
Some parents say the Youth Gators motivated their kids to succeed in school. Now they're not sure how last weekend's fight will affect them.
"They stood there on the frontlines and they seen the referee initiate the fight," parent Tanya Smith says. "They see him throw the first punch and it's hard for us to explain to them that justice will be served."
The Sarasota County Sheriff's Office announced on Friday that three Gators coaches and one Gators athlete would be charged in the brawl, but the Gators say the responsibility should be shared among everyone who participated in the fight, and they don't want to see this situation affect children who weren't involved.
"To punish every one of the kids that didn't have anything to do with the situation to where they can't play now...our heart basically goes out to all those kids," team president Eddie Austin says.