CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A Charlotte Pop Warner youth football coach got knocked out after he tried to break up a fight between two opposing players during a playoff game in Cary last Saturday.
Coach Derrick Thompson, the offensive coordinator for Charlotte's PAL (Police Athletic League) Panthers, said one of his players got into a fight with a player from the Raleigh-based Capital City Steelers.
The teams were made up of 13-year-olds.
"You're just like, 'Let me get in here and just break it up,' because typically, it's a lot of grabbing face masks, things like that," Thompson said. "Then as soon as I get there, and I start breaking them up, I just wake up on the ground and I'm like, 'What happened?'"
He didn’t know it then, but he said after looking through cellphone video recorded by a parent, he said one of the opposing players headbutted him with his helmet.
Thompson said he suffered a concussion and a busted lip, but he said he's feeling better.
According to the Pop Warner national program, referees immediately ended the game.
The Steelers were winning so they got to advance in the playoffs, but Pop Warner suspended two of their coaches and two of their players.
The national office said it also suspended one of the Panthers coaches.
Thompson said he was disappointed there were no EMTs or paramedics at the game who could’ve quickly helped him.
"It's just not OK," Thompson said. "That just needs to be something that, across the board, is something that is there to ensure the safety of the kids."
A Pop Warner spokesman said there were people certified in first aid at the game, and an EMS station located nearby.
But, according to dispatch audio, medics delayed their arrival because they were concerned about their safety. They waited until police officers arrived.
Pop Warner's full statement on the Mid South Region Playoff Game:
"We were extremely disappointed by the actions of several coaches and players during a playoff game in Cary last weekend. The incident was disturbing and runs counter to the values of Pop Warner. Officials correctly ended the game as a result of the incident and, upon further investigation, Pop Warner Mid South Region officials suspended two players and two coaches from the Steelers and one coach from the Panthers. There simply is no excuse for this type of behavior. It is important to note that those actions are not representative of the many teams playing Pop Warner in North Carolina and nationwide every weekend during the season We hope those involved will learn from the incident and act with respect for the game and each other moving forward."
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