A Florida field marshal has earned herself the name “Golf cart Gail” after siccing police on a Black father who yelled instructions at his son from the sideline during a youth soccer game over the weekend.
According to ABC News, the drama unfolded in Ponte Verdon on Saturday when the league official, who is white, called two St. John’s County sheriff’s deputies on a man she thought was “getting ugly” after a referee’s call. The man explained he was shouting at his son, not the referee.
The woman dialed police anyway.
Witness Ginger Williams recorded video of the incident and posted it to Facebook under the headline “SOCCER WHILE BLACK.”
“All he did was tell his kid that the ref was correct and cheered him on, and told him to ‘play your game,'” Williams, whose son was on the opposing team, told ABC News. “Other parents were like, ‘Whoa, he was talking to his kid.'”
Williams said she dubbed the field marshal “Golf Cart Gail” because she was riding in a golf cart. In her post, she detailed how the woman continued to “harass and beleaguer” the dad even after he offered to leave the game in order to avoid a situation.
“Then she says to him, ‘Well, you can pack up and go and I am going to call the police …,'” Williams recalled, adding that she was spurred to intervene when she heard the woman tell the dad, “I no longer feel safe due to your threatening behavior.”
Another parent at the game, Maria Morales-Walther, also filmed video of the encounter between the father and the field marshal and stepped in as well.
“He was standing next to me, talking to his son and this lady decides to butt in somehow and is now calling the cops because he was talking to his son,” Morales-Walther says in her video.
Footage from the incident shows the father, who remains unnamed, explaining to deputies how the game official somehow thought he was shouting at the ref for making a questionable call. According to the official, one parent was thrown out earlier in the game for screaming at a referee.
“They had a bad call with my son and … I said, ‘Hey, the ref was right.’ She thought I was yelling at the ref,” the father tells responding officers. “So, she came over and I was like, ‘No ma’am, I was yelling at my son. Nobody else.'”
The field marshal, who also remains unnamed, tells officers she dialed 911 after the father “got nasty with me.”
When one of the deputies notices Williams is filming the incident, she responds, “I just want to make sure this man is safe, period. I don’t understand why this woman felt the need to call the police on this man.” Williams added that the father chose to leave the game in order to avoid further conflict with the official. The deputy seemed unconcerned with Williams, who is audibly crying at this point, telling her that it’s within the right of the official to call the police for any and everything.
While the incident has sparked local outrage, Ponte Vedra Athletic Association president Gary Easom told FirstCoast News he feels the situation has been “mischaracterized” by social media. It was more about parents behaving badly while their children were playing soccer, he said.
“This happens more times than I would like,” said Easom, adding that a father had already been ejected for being “verbally abusive” toward the teenage refs.
A mother was also reprimanded for using profanity during the game. Easom, who wasn’t at Saturday’s game, noted that police aren’t usually called but said parents are not allowed to approach their children during games.
The incident is just the latest in a string of instances of police being called on Black people for seemingly dubious reasons.
Watch more in the clip below.