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Question
My son was ejected from a JV high school football game last night for unsportsmanlike conduct.  He was being taunted the entire game by an opposing player and right before the snap, the player crossed the line and shoved him.  My son shoved back, knocked the guys helmet off, and punched him in the neck.  Both were ejected.  Are players allowed to defend themselves when attacked during a game?

Answer
Mistie,

I understand your frustration.  I am sorry this has happened to your son.

Unfortunately, as officials, we usually only see a retaliation.  The rules provide that any act of fighting requires an ejection.  The punch that your son threw is such an act.  In addition, the provoking act by the opposing player is also deemed "fighting" by the rules (if it caused a fighting reaction, which this did).  

It sounds like the officials handled it exactly as required by the rules.  Again, it is unfortunate if your son was taunted the entire game, but the officials many times can't hear this taunting.  It usually calls for a warning, and then some extra attention for the rest of the game.  But if the officials can't hear it, there isn't much they can do.  

The shove before the snap happens in football all the time.  It is a simple penalty for encroachment, unless it was excessive.  Regardless, a reactionary punch will always call for an ejection, no matter the provocation for it.  You are not entitled to throw a punch in the game of football, even in self-defense.  It will cause an automatic disqualification.

I know it isn't the answer you want, but hopefully it helps you to understand the ruling.

Bill

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William J. Robers

Expertise

Any questions related to football rules and mechanics, as well as safety. Extensive experience in football officiating, including training, evaluating, discipline, and mechanics of football officials.

Experience

Consulting and Expert Witness Analysis: Football-related issues of player safety, including liability cases; standard of care and negligence claims of players, coaches, schools, and game officials; mechanisms for on-field injuries; subrogation claims; playing rules; sportsmanship; true sport; committees' points of emphasis for game rules; and mechanics of the game and game officials. - Media education and analysis - Officiating instruction, qualifications, mechanics, and standards - Coaches' education - Film evaluation, analysis, and grading - Insurance coverage, risks, liabilities, investigations, subrogation - Legal education, objective analysis, discovery plans, trial and cross-examination preparation - Injury analysis, cause, prevention, and involvement of officials, coaches, and players - Expert witness evaluation and testimony - Remedial measure to minimize future risks - Fact-checking and analysis for authors and media - Disciplining officials and players, and causes for discipline - Analysis of hazardous playing conditions - General education on the rules and mechanics for players, coaches, schools, and game officials

Organizations
Big Sky Conference Football Officials Association Colorado Springs Basketball Officials Association Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference Football Officials Rotary International Sports Lawyers Association American Bar Association Section on Sports Law

Education/Credentials
JURIS DOCTOR, cum laude 2001 University of Minnesota Law School, Minneapolis, Minnesota President, Entertainment and Sports Law Students Association Associate Editor, Minnesota Law Review MASTERS OF BUSINESS ADMINISTRATION, with honors 2001 University of Minnesota Carlson School of Management, Minneapolis, Minnesota Double Concentration: Marketing and Finance Beta Gamma Sigma (national honor society) BACHELOR OF SCIENCE, cum laude 1997 Marquette University, Milwaukee, Wisconsin Double major: Business Marketing and Business Finance Minor: Political Science Beta Gamma Sigma and Alpha Sigma Nu (national honor societies) Extensive training in football rules and officiating mechanics.

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