Watch: Massive brawl breaks out at AAU basketball game between players and tournament officials
An AAU game ended in violence Sunday after members of Chicago's R.A.W. Athletics fought with referees at The Association tournament finals in Emerson, Georgia
A massive brawl broke out at an Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) basketball tournament outside Atlanta over the weekend which saw players and tournament officials come to blows. Footage of the chaos captured in cell phones of attendees went viral after they were posted on social media.
The game was taking place at the LakePoint Champions Center in Cartersville on Sunday morning between the Houston Raptors and Chicago-based R.A.W. Athletics. According to WXIA, the fight broke out during the closing seconds of the game and the clips of players throwing multiple punches at one official went viral.
Having said that, Howard Martin, the R.A.W. Athletics coach, defended his players and claimed one of them was attacked by a referee.
"At the end of the game, one of my players was complaining about a call,” Martin told ESPN. “He made a comment to the referee. The ref didn’t like it. So the other team inbounded the ball, walked it up, the ref said to my player, ‘Say it again.’ Then he T’d him up and kicked him out of the game.
“And he walked behind him, still having words. Then the ref pushed my player, and they squared up right by my bench. When they squared up, another one of my players jumped off the bench and took [the ref] down. We separated them.”
Martin further said that one of the officials ran over from another court and was trying to "join in" the fight.
"I'm telling him, 'Hey, hey, it's all good.' [And he says], 'Who hit the ref?'" Martin said. "He's running to the ref's defense. He's coming over to join in whatever's going on. ... He finally calms down some. Then the kid who was involved in taking the ref down comes over and says, 'It's me, trying to take responsibility for it.' [And the ref] charged the kid. And it all went to hell."
“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 coach of the Chicago team said in a since-deleted tweet.
Bobby Benjamin, head coach of the opposing Houston Raptors, gave a different account of the brawl to ESPN, saying Martin and his team started the fight.
"They started arguing with each other and their coach," Benjamin said of the moments before the fight started. "During a timeout, I said, 'I think they know they're not gonna beat us in basketball, but I think they might try to challenge us in something else because they're challenging their coach.' Five minutes before the fight, God gave us a sign that something ugly was about to happen."
WXIA reports that his statement "was not well-received by those with video access to the brawl, believing the referees had been intimidated throughout the game, leading up to the various fights."
Josh Miley, the organizer of the tournament, told ESPN: "Right now, we're still reviewing the video as to what might happen," Miley said. "We had everything in the proper place. It just escalated more than it should have."
"It's unfortunate," he added. "It's saddening. It's sickening. It's hard to stomach. No adult, no kid should have to witness that."
Martin said that his players will now be demonized online, maintaining that the brawl should never have happened. "Now it's all over social media, news outlets, that my kids are a bunch of thugs and a bunch of gangbangers," he said. "They're all teenage boys. One guy came to the aid of another guy, which he shouldn't have. He should have let us handle it."
Martin added, "I'm not condoning anything my players did, but they're kids. They're minors. That's why they need adults. My job is to protect them. And that's what I'm going to do."
The LakePoint Champions Center said in a statement that it was "disappointed in the incident that occurred this morning at The Association basketball tournament."
“Behavior like this by any party will not be tolerated,” it said.
The finals of the Association tournament were held in Emerson, about 40 miles Northwest of Atlanta.
As of now, the Emerson Police Department has launched a formal investigation, according to ESPN writer Myron Medcalf's report.