PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Spectators watching the Capital City Buccaneers team compete Sunday during a Rhode Island Preteen Football League game may have noticed a bizarre play on the field.
Spotted among the 13- and 14-year-old players was a 19-year-old man who suited up to compete against players six years his junior. The man is reportedly the older brother of one of the team members.
“I’m embarrassed, I feel disrespected,” Alexandra Diaz, the team’s founder, told Eyewitness News on Monday. “I feel there are no words that can explain how I feel.”
Diaz said she was extremely upset the Buccaneers’ reputation has been ruined by the coach’s mistake.
“He wasn’t thinking, and that’s all that he could tell me, was that he was not thinking,” she said.
According to Diaz, the coach responsible has been fired and the varsity team has been banned for the remainder of its season.
The Buccaneers’ other team and their cheer squad have also been dismissed from the league. That means no more games for 60 players and cheerleaders ranging in ages from 9 to 14.
“We certainly didn’t want to come to this decision and we feel terrible about it, but it’s a decision that had to be made for the safety of the rest of the league,” Nelson Pedro, vice president of the league, told Eyewitness News on Tuesday.
Pedro said the decision to put a 19-year-old on the football field was the final straw.
“It was a big one – you have a 19-year-old man that, in essence, was snuck onto a field to play up against 13- and 14-year-olds – taking the chance that you could seriously injure another player is a big deal,” he said.
Eyewitness News spoke by phone to men who identified themselves as the 19-year-old player and coach but refused to give their names.
The coach apologized for what he described as letting his ego get in the way of his judgment, saying he saw the older teen suited up to play and sent him out to the field. Both the coach and the 19-year-old also said they are remorseful.
“We all failed. If one goes down, we all fail as a community,” Diaz said. “And that’s what I’m teaching them, so we all lose our season for this.”
The Capital City Buccaneers can reapply to be a part of the league next year.