Editor’s note: Video included in this article may be disturbing to some.
SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – An employee of a Georgia sheriff’s office, who worked as a local youth football coach, has been removed from both positions after video of a recent football game went viral, with star athletes like LeBron James condemning his actions on social media.
The incident happened Dec. 7 in Kissimmee, Florida, where the Savannah Gators were reportedly competing in the American Youth Football (AYF) National Championship.
The coach, now identified as Gerrel Williams, is seen screaming, slapping a player’s helmet several times, at one point knocking the child to the ground.
A statement from AYF says Williams — who coached 9-year-old players — is banned for life from the organization and any of its events. He is also prohibited from entering the venue.
AYF says all of its coaches go through a complete background check, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention concussion training, and coaching training. Coaches are also required to sign an annual code of conduct, which AYF says Williams violated.
The Osceola County Sheriff’s Office in Florida was contacted a day after the incident to review video showing possible child abuse.
According to an incident report, a deputy reviewed the video and made contact with the AYF head and the player’s mother.
“She was aware of the incident, and specifically stated she did not want to press charges,” the report says.
“Due to no victim willing to press charges for child abuse, an information report was generated to document the incident,” the deputy reported.
According to the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office, the Department of Children and Families has received the information report.
Meanwhile, a friend of Williams shared his apology in a video posted on social media.
“I’m not going to make excuses for what I did. I was wrong. I shouldn’t have disciplined him in public, I should’ve waited until we got back,” Williams said.
“At the end of the day, I apologize to him, the kids, the city down here and my family back at home,” he continued.
Williams said the player and his parents have forgiven him.
Still, many in Savannah and across the nation expressed outrage over the incident. Athletes, including Lakers star LeBron James, took to social media to condemn the coach’s actions.
“Couldn’t be my kid,” James wrote in an Instagram story, adding, “If I (was) there and it’s not even my kid we gone have more than words for sure.”
Savannah State University alumnus and NFL player Shannon Sharpe tweeted: “If that’s my child, I’ve got to have him.”
The Chatham County Sheriff’s Office, Williams’ former employer, issued a statement saying they were “very disturbed” by his actions and do not condone his behavior.
As of Thursday, Williams is no longer an employee of the sheriff’s office. Officials said he was a counselor in the detention center.