The flag is on the adults....but the kids are paying the penalty. Due to the actions of spectators at Tri-Valley Pop Warner tackle games on September 12th, 18th and 19th, the season ends now, for the Utica, Rome and Oneida tackle teams. The young players, most age 12, are devastated.
"Not only that they told me that we couldn't play no more but it was that we tried our hardest and we practice for it like a whole month now for nothing. For nothing," said Utica Bulldog, Deaquan Lanier. "When I'm playing, I'm having fun. It's not just sitting in the house and looking at tv. It's something that you do that's actually fun."
A widely-circulated video from a Rome game Sunday, September 19th, shows adults, verbally and physically fighting. Tri-Valley Pop Warner issued a statement, saying they support the decision of the Mohawk Valley Chapter of Certified Football Officials to end the season early for the three teams. Young players disagree.
"We're trying to be in the field doing what we're supposed to go instead of trying to be out there be gangsters and stuff, we're trying to be in the field and be professional, go to the league, our dreams," says Utica Bulldog, Jamal Owens.
The disappointment runs deep in Rome, too.
"It was really a stressfull time because football, I really want it to be my lifetime career, you know? I want to carry on with this when I'm an adult and everything like that so to know it got stripped away from me it's just, it's upsetting," says Rome Colt, Conner Harris.
"I was pretty devastated, I'm sure the whole team was it's pretty upsetting that we heard that. This team has put so much effort every single day for weeks and it's sad," says Rome Colt, Chad Smith.
Coaches are heartbroken for the players.
"The kids deserve to play the football game. They did nothing wrong," says Utica Bulldogs Coach, Ern McCovery. "All of the situations are not the same and they're trying level them out to be the same. Some situations are more serious than others and our case, ours was never as serious as the other situation."
"Most of these parents would agree if we gave the kids back that sport, they'd stay at home. They'd watch it from a live feed off a camera. They get more joy watching their kids come home after a long day's hard work of football and a won fought game than see them running around a park being bullied," says Rome Colts Assistant Coach, Rodney Harris.
Barbara Hargrove is raising her grandson. For him, football was a hard-fought reward, after fighting cancer for four years.
"Some parents don't know how to act. I understand that. But you can't take it out on all the kids. This is the only positive thing that these kids got going for them," says Hargrove.