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Texas Teens Suspended From Athletics for Rest of Year After Tackling Referee

The University Interscholastic League unanimously voted Thursday to suspend two Texas high school football players from athletics for the rest of the year after they appeared to intentionally tackle a referee earlier this fall.

Following a Thursday hearing, the UIL also decided to bar former John Jay High School assistant football coach Mack Breed from coaching any sport for the remainder of the 2015-16 school year. During the hearing, Breed confessed to telling players that the referee "needs to pay," but he denied expressly ordering any players to tackle him.

The players, who did not attend Thursday's hearing, previously told Good Morning America's George Stephanopoulos that they were following Breed's orders. Michael Moreno, one of the two players, alleged that Breed told him and another player, "You need to hit the ref. He needs to pay the price." Both Moreno and Victor Rojas, the other player who tackled referee Robert Watts, accused Watts of directing racial slurs at John Jay players prior to the incident.

"He told one of my Hispanic friends, 'Speak English, this is America,' " Rojas claimed about Watts on Good Morning America. He also accused Watts of using the "n-word" toward an African-American player, although Watts, through an attorney, denied any such claims.

According to Anusha Roy of KENS 5, investigation findings presented at the UIL's hearing Thursday presented no evidence of Watts using racial slurs during the game. Accordingly, the Texas Association of Sports Officials recommended no action be taken against Watts, per Roy.

The UIL unanimously agreed to suspend Breed for the remainder of the school year and place him on probation for two years, according to Roy. Last month, Breed resigned from John Jay one day after ESPN's Outside the Lines published a report suggesting Breed did in fact command the players to tackle Watts. Through an attorney, Breed denied those claims to ESPN.com's John Barr.

"Succumbing to the racially charged atmosphere, Coach Breed let his anger get the best of him, and he made some regrettable comments," said Breed's attorney, James Reeves, in the statement. "Witnesses can't agree on what the comments were, but they were interpreted by two players to mean 'hit the referee.' The witnesses agree that Breed never explicitly told them to hit the referee except for Michael Moreno, whose story continues to evolve."

During Thursday's hearing, the UIL also publicly reprimanded John Jay's head football coach, Gary Gutierrez, and placed him on two years' probation, per Roy.

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