Herriman police investigating parent brawl on field during youth football game
HERRIMAN, Utah –– A youth football league is responding to a brawl between team parents caught on camera, that led to the cancellation of a football game in Herriman and is now part of a police investigation.
Witnesses say it appeared that parents got upset over a call a referee made at one of the Saturday Ute Conference Football games at Butterfield Park, and they described seeing those parents storm the field and throw fists while police pulled out tasers.
Melynda and Dave Epperson said they were attending a different game with their five grandchildren, to watch one of their grandsons play when they saw the fight break out on the next field over.
The grandmother explained that many parents suddenly rushed the field, screaming. She said it looked like 30 to 40 people, and some of them started to fist fight.
“Watching parents attacking each other, I saw fists. I saw people pulling people apart,” Epperson recounted. “I saw two police officers come onto the field pulling people apart. Coaches, refs pulling people apart.”
Melynda began to film a couple minutes in, and people are heard screaming profanities in her video. A large group is gathered on the field. Melynda indicated that the two police officers who intervened pulled out their tasers as they tried to get parents under control.
A coach began yelling at the kids to run away.
“The kids ran in front of me. You could see the terror in their face, and you could see that they we unsure of what was happening,” she said.
Then just minutes later on the other field, Melynda described seeing more unsettling behavior.
“The referee was screaming profanities at the coach,” she explained. “And so that game was abruptly ended. So, both these games ended in the fourth quarter, without being completed.”
Beau Neville, a Ute Conference Football parent and coach, said the referee yelled profanities at them after they tried to calmly point out a questionable play.
“I got my wife and my children also there and they’re seeing a brawl going on, and they’re hearing bad language and all that kind of stuff,” he said. “They’re just things that seven/eight-year-olds shouldn’t be seeing.”
He said coaches and Ute Conference league leaders were quick to step in and resolve both situations. Melynda said police escorted families who were fighting to the parking lot and made them leave.
Ute Conference Football Executive Director Jeff Gorringe said Sunday evening that they’re aware of the incident with the parent fight and will review the video footage once they have it all Monday.
“The Ute Conference is in process of supplying cameras to the majority of our games with full panoramic view of the entire field. The Ute conference also has police officers present at all games for the safety of our referees, coaches and players,” he wrote, in a text message.
Gorringe expressed appreciation and thanked Herriman City police officers for their work on Saturday, as well as the referees for doing an amazing job during a children’s football game.
“The UC has zero tolerance for bad behavior and suspensions to all unruly parents and coaches entering the fields will be forthcoming,” Gorringe wrote.
They also just released updated rules regarding parent behavior that they sent out Friday, to announce the updates and remind parents that behavior like entering the field or going after a referee will result in a three-game minimum suspension.
Gorringe said they are going to start enforcing the rules without exception.
Herriman Police confirmed the incident, said they are actively investigating, and couldn’t release any other information.
Melynda and Beau are frustrated that the parents’ bad behavior ended up ruining the entire game for the kids.
“As a parent, be a better example for your kids. They don’t need to see that,” Beau said. “Show them how they need to behave when they’re at their sporting events.”
“If you can’t be encouraging and a positive experience and a positive influence on those kids, don’t come to the games,” Melynda said. “Stay home.”
On Monday, Gorringe sent in an updated statement that reads in full:
The Ute Conference has reviewed the video that took place out at the Mountain Ridge fields on Saturday 09/10/2022. With our camera system that is set up on our fields we were able to see the entire incident from beginning to end. We are happy to report that the actions of Herriman City police department and the Mountain Ridge Board de-escalated the situation where no brawl ensued and no punches were thrown as originally reported. There were a lot of coaches and parents on the field that were acting in an unruly and unsportsmanlike manner. The UC will act swiftly with ejections and suspensions for violating our code of conduct and rules of civility. Unfortunately, people should never act like this at any sporting event, especially a 9 year old football game.
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