Texas high school referee suspended for season for racist comments

A prominent Texas high school football official has been suspended for using racial slurs. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
A prominent Texas high school football official has been suspended for using racial slurs. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

One of the longest-tenured high school football referees in the state of Texas has been suspended for the entire 2019 season for making racist remarks.

According to the Houston Chronicle, Mike Atkinson, a high school ref of 45 years, was recorded using the N-word in several conversations. The recordings, obtained by the Chronicle, came to light in a lawsuit filed by Joe Machol, a high school and college official who also worked as a game clock operator for the Houston Texans.

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Machol filed a lawsuit against the Texas Association of Sports Officials on Tuesday, alleging corruption and racism, after he was “banned” from officiating high school games and removed from his positions as clock operator for the Texans and president of TASO’s Houston chapter.

Atkinson admitted to the Chronicle that he has used the N-word, but says the recordings, which come from telephone conversations with another official who has a “disciplinary dispute with TASO,” were taken out of context and that he was “baited” into using the word.

Atkinson uses the word five separate times in the recordings. From the Chronicle:

Atkinson strongly denies Machol’s allegation in the lawsuit that shortly after a contentious election for the presidency of TASO’s Houston chapter, Atkinson, upset at having lost by one vote, blamed his defeat on those “southside n-----s” who voted for Machol.

Per the Chronicle, Atkinson says he does not use the N-word often:

“I know what it sounds like when you hear those clips,” he said. “But I’m talking to (the person who made the recordings) in a private conversation, and he’s using the word, and I said it a couple times. I’m a jokester. I like to listen to things. I watch Black Entertainment Television all the time because I think it’s hilarious. I may have picked up something … I don’t know. I don’t know.”

Atkinson, considered one of the top refs in the state, initially received a two-week suspension to start the season and a three-week suspension at the end of the season, which would would remove him from consideration for state playoff games. Later, the suspension was increased to the full season and Atkinson will have to file a petition for reinstatement if he hopes to return for the 2020 season.

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