The violent collision between two youth football players that has prompted outrage on social media this week occurred in September, and the team’s head coach was later removed from his position, a lawyer for the youth football league told USA TODAY Sports on Wednesday.
The attorney, Christopher Duggan, told USA TODAY Sports in a written statement that the Wesley Chapel Weddington Athletic Association – a youth sports organization in North Carolina – first learned about the collision in September and commissioned an investigation.
“This drill occurred back in September 2020 on a team with a first year coach in the program,” Duggan wrote in the statement. “This was addressed immediately with the coach when it happened as this was deemed not an acceptable drill for this age group or the experience level of these players. Subsequent to the coach being removed from his position, there were no other incidents or issues with this team during the remainder of the season.”
Duggan added that “the safety of the players is the primary focus and we believe that the immediate and swift actions of removing the coach from his position demonstrates WCWAA’s commitment to that safety.”
The attorney did not immediately respond to follow-up questions from USA TODAY Sports about the identity of the coach, the age group of the team or whether the children in the video sustained any injuries.
The video, which was posted on Twitter on Tuesday, shows one child attempting to tackle another and getting flung to the ground. Someone is heard saying “you’re good, you’re good” as the child attempts to stand up.
Prominent former NFL players, media members, parents and football fans widely decried the video on social media, as well as the unknown coaches or adults who were present at the time.
“Attention all parents! If your kid is doing this drill. Take your child off the field and don’t go back to those stupid coaches,” former NFL wide receiver Torrey Smith wrote in one tweet. “Coaches like this aren’t safe and ruin the image off football.”
The WCWAA indicates on its web site that its football program is a member of Pop Warner, the country’s largest youth football organization. Pop Warner spokesperson Brian Heffron said in a statement earlier Wednesday that it was “deeply disturbed” by the video and investigating.
“If in fact it was Pop Warner coaches leading these drills we will take action,” Heffron said. “What we saw was dangerous and, frankly, offensive to the overwhelming majority of our coaches who teach the sport the right way.”
Heffron added that Pop Warner mandates training for its youth football coaches, instructing them to teach “the proper, safe progressions of tackling techniques, including practice against dummies, particularly at such a young age.”
“Over the past 10 years Pop Warner has instituted a number of player safety rules, and this example runs counter to our practices,” he said.
USA Football, which does not operate youth leagues but serves as the national governing body for the sport, also criticized the events on the video.
“This is against everything that we in football stand for and has no place in our game,” spokesperson Steve Alic wrote in an email. “It is an affront to the millions of Moms and Dads who coach youth football with the greatest care for their kids.”