On Sunday, an AAU basketball tournament in Emerson, Georgia, went viral for all the wrong reasons when one of the teams started a fight that involved the referees. One day later, details have begun to emerge about the incident.
Yahoo’s Jeff Eisenberg reported the fight was started by Raw Athletics, an AAU basketball team from Chicago. The Under-17 team was minutes from a double-digit defeat to the Houston Raptors when players on Raw Athletics surrounded one referee and threw several punches as he lay on the ground.
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Per Eisenberg’s reporting, the issue began when a Raw Athletics player disagreed with a referee’s foul call and let his displeasure be known by complaining loudly and then shoulder-bumping the referee. The contact with the referee resulted in a technical foul, at which point the player threw a punch that began the fight.
“When I looked up, the kid was swinging at the ref,” Houston Raptors coach Bobby Benjamin told Eisenberg. “At that point I told my assistant coaches to get our kids on the other side of the court. I didn’t want them involved in that at all. If you watch the video, you will probably not see a single purple jersey.”
Benjamin and two other AAU coaches in the tournament’s semifinals told Eisenberg the Raw Athletics players were responsible for the start of the fight. The Raw Athletics coach, Howard Martin, did not speak to Eisenberg but shared his thoughts on the incident in a tweet that he has since removed.
“A ref actually walked up on one of our players and attacked him,” Martin tweeted. “Everyone tried to break it all up, then the ref’s father [who was working a game on a different court] ran over to our court and rushed our guys. Everyone in the gym, the other team and the directors saw everything.”
The melee not only put a stop to the Raptors’ game against Raw Athletics but also caused a delay in the other semifinals game between Indy Eagles Basketball Club and the Southern Indiana Titans, who ultimately won the tournament.
Eagles coach Marcus Fisher said that despite one of the referees getting pummeled in the fight, he returned for the end of the Eagles' and Titans’ semifinals game and also officiated the title game between the Titans and the Raptors.
“He came back over, scratches on his face and a few bruises, and finished the game,” Fisher told Eisenberg. “Then he went ahead and reffed the championship game a couple hours later.”