Football referee Fred Gracia, 58, lies on the ground after being charged by Edinburg’s Emmanuel Duron in a high school game on Dec. 3. Joel Martinez/The Monitor via AP

 

In what were reportedly his first public comments since his act of violence made national headlines, a Texas high school football player offered an apology Monday.

Eighteen-year-old Emmanuel Duron spoke during an executive committee hearing of the University Interscholastic League, which was conducted remotely via Zoom. The committee augmented a suspension already levied against Duron that effectively ended his high school sports career, and it voted for additional punishments for his school, Edinburg High, and its football coach.

“I’d like to say that I’m sorry for what happened to my coaches, my family and to the UIL,” Duron said (via McAllen, Texas, newspaper the Monitor).

Emmanuel Duron of Edinburg (Texas) High School is pulled from the field by the coaching staff after charging a referee during a high school football game on Dec. 3. Duron came running from the sideline area after the referee announced his ejection, slamming into the official. Duron was escorted from the stadium by police. Joel Martinez/The Monitor via AP

In a Dec. 3 game with a trip to the Texas state playoffs at stake, Duron was flagged for a late hit on the opposing quarterback. He reportedly exchanged words with the referee, Fred Gracia, before heading to his team’s sideline. Gracia then gave Duron an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and ejected the senior defensive lineman from the game.

An enraged Duron sprinted back onto the field and rammed into Gracia, knocking over the 58-year-old official, who was taken to an ambulance and checked for a concussion. Duron was led away from the football stadium by police, and he was subsequently charged with misdemeanor assault.

Video clips of the episode went viral, and Edinburg administrators quickly gave Duron a three-day suspension from school and barred him from any more extracurricular activities for the rest of the academic year, per reports. Edinburg also pulled its football team, which won the Dec. 3 game, from the state playoffs.

A district defensive player of the year as a junior in 2019, Duron also showed promise as a wrestler last year, per Rio Grande Valley Sports, but he will be unable to compete further.

At Monday’s hearing, Duron was suspended from all UIL activities for the remainder of the 2020-21 school year. His head football coach, J.J. Leija, was given a reprimand and placed on probation for the following school year. In addition, all of Edinburg’s athletic programs were placed on probation, effective immediately and extending for two years.

“Everyone on this call will agree that we cannot tolerate this kind of behavior. Even the student who has apologized would admit that,” UIL Executive Director Charles Breithaupt said (via the Monitor).

“We as a district understand that it is a very unfortunate incident for the team, as the students and coaching staff worked very hard throughout the year for this season, but it is important that our district abides by the rules and regulations set forth by the UIL,” Edinburg Consolidated Independent School District interim superintendent Gilbert Garza said.

Duron only made the single statement of apology at the hearing, with an attorney for the teenager stating his client would not comment further (via the San Antonio Express-News), and he did not address the referee he assaulted. Per the Monitor, some of the committee members were surprised Duron appeared for the Zoom hearing, given that the facts in the case were not in dispute.

“You have an opportunity to learn from your mistakes, and I hope that you’ll take everything that’s happening today into consideration,” committee member Daryl Wade told Duron after the UIL issued its punishments. “You are a young man. Good luck to you.”


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