A WJXT report on the arrest of a Jacksonville Sheriff's Office sergeant. A WJXT report on the arrest of a Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office sergeant. (WJXT.)

An incident out of Jacksonville, Florida this weekend is just the latest in a disturbing rise of stories about the mistreatment of officials at youth sports events. The case in question here saw Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office homicide sergeant Michael Russell arrested Tuesday on a felony charge of battery of a sports official.

As per comments from Sheriff T.K. Waters, as relayed in a report Tuesday from independent Jacksonville station WJXT, Russell was at a youth soccer game Sunday at Losco Regional Park in the Jacksonville neighborhood of Mandarin. He was there in plain clothes and off-duty. A fight broke out between players, and officials tried to stop it. Russell then “went onto the field and punched one of the refs in the face, knocking the whistle out of his mouth.”

Here’s more on that from the WJXT piece:

“We never relish arresting an employee of this agency. However, our collective belief in transparency, openness and accountability outweighs any personal allegiance,” Waters said. “We are a society of laws, and no one is above those laws.”

…“It’s really confusing to me,” Waters said when asked why Russell might have punched the referee. “It’s disappointing.”

That piece also notes that Russell’s actions were captured on video. But that video hasn’t yet been released. Still, the charge against Russell here drew a lot of comment from the soccer community, including veteran official and current MLS on Apple TV+ rules analyst Christina Unkel:

Here are some of the other notable comments on this:


This is far from the first incidence of violence against a youth sports official. And, sadly, it probably won’t be the last.


About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.