A youth football scrimmage in Eaton Monday was scuttled when coaches brawled because the Eaton team said moral beliefs didn't allow their boys to "hit" a girl playing for the Boys and Girls Club.
During the dust up, Eaton coach Shawn Mills suffered a small bump and scratches over his left eye. But Mills told officers he didn't want charges filed against Nate Hernandez, the assistant-coach who punched him, according to a police report.
Police said they will take no action.
The Boys and Girls club suspended parent-coach Hernandez who, along with other parents, confronted the Eaton coaches at mid-field before the scrimmage, demanding they tell the 11-year-old girl why she couldn't play, said Greg Kimbrough, chief executive officer for the Boys and Girls Club of Weld County.
Kimbrough said Tuesday the club wasn't informed of the dispute and would have simply canceled the scrimmage between the 9- and 11-year-old boys and girls.
"It's ridiculous that as an organization we're here to teach youth character development, we're here to teach positive behavior and being accountable and responsible and then this occurs," Kimbrough said. "Sadly, we can't develop our parents at times. We work with youth and our goal is to help teach them to make good decisions and at times they don't always have the best roles models."
Kimbrough said the Boys and Girls Club supports coed teams, as does the Greeley Recreation Department, which organizes the regular-season youth football league, but not the scrimmage.
However, he disagreed with the Weld County parents' attempt to turn the scrimmage into a "political demonstration" by confronting the Eaton parents about their moral beliefs.
"As an organization we don't approve of using children as a sort of a soap box," he said.
7NEWS was unable to reach coach Mills or other team parents Tuesday.
Hernandez apologized Tuesday in a call to Mills. However, Hernandez defended standing up for the girl's right to play.
"I feel strongly about what I did," Hernandez said.
As for the Boys and Girls Club barring him from attending club games, he said, "I think it's not right, but they have to do what they have do. ... My team is 5-0. They will go 7-0 without me."
The girl, Mikayla Crespin, who plays guard and proudly described how she can block two players, said she's good enough to play with anybody.
"I think that's kinda, like, harsh. That really hurt my feelings," she said of the other team's refusal to play against a girl. "Because girls can do the same as boys. There's nothing different."
Kimbrough said the fight should have been avoided, because Mills called Hernandez before the Monday scrimmage to explain some Eaton parents' opposition to boys playing football against girls.
"Their coach expressed to our team that they had several parents who wouldn't allow their sons to participate in the scrimmage if the girl was going to play, because of their belief structure," Kimbrough said. "They've taken it and made it sort of a team edict that they won't hit girls, therefore, they won't play teams that have girl players. ... I may disagree with their strictness on this, but I have to respect that we live in a society that allows them to have that freedom of choice."
Kimbrough said Eaton coaches were left with the impression that the girl wouldn't play, because Mills had explained that his team would be forced to cancel because Eaton couldn't field enough players if the boys whose parents disapproved were pulled from the game.
Instead of notifying the Boys and Girls Club, Hernandez called the girl's mother, Nichole Esquibel, and outraged parents decided to call the Greeley Tribune, Kimbrough said.
So, when Eaton arrived for the 5:30 p.m. scrimmage near Eaton Middle School, they were blindsided by a newspaper reporter and irate parents at mid-field.
"My understanding is the parents walked Mikayla out on the field and requested that the coaches of the Eaton team explain to her why she could not play," said Kimbrough, who was not at the scrimmage. "And that is when the arguments ensued and ultimately led to the fight."
Jordan Moore, a Boys and Girls Club staffer and team head coach, reported to his boss that he was warming up players when "he heard some voices getting louder and louder and turned to look," Kimbrough said.
"He heard a lot of barking, saw some pushing and shoving and the fight ensued and everyone rushed over to break it up," Kimbrough said.
The young players watched as the coaches of the two teams fought.
"They, ultimately, sadly, put the Eaton coaches into a really tough situation," Kimbrough said of coach Hernandez and Mikayla's mother.
After the fight, the team returned to the Boys and Girls Club, where "Nate Hernandez spoke to the kids and expressed his apology and informed them that his actions and actions of others were not appropriate," Kimbrough said.
Kimbrough said Hernandez will face "consequences for his actions" -- just as the kids would if they had made a mistake.
The Boys and Girls Club has apologized to the Eaton team and plans to meet with parents and coaches from both teams this week.
"We'll try to turn it into a teachable moment, but sadly it should never have to come to that," Kimbrough said.
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