By Eric Johnson in Community News Service
A Winooski High School soccer player who allegedly head-butted an Enosburg Falls player earlier this fall won’t face criminal charges, according to a letter from local prosecutors.
After a rough late September game with Enosburg Falls, Winooski superintendent Sean McMannon alleged that Enosburg players and fans were directing racist and hateful remarks at the Winooski Players, and were violent out of the referee’s view.
During the game, the intensity escalated, and a brief scuffle ensued, where a Winooski player was knocked to the ground, and another Winooski player came to his teammates’ aid.
According to the Enosburg player and parent, in their statement to Owen Dugan of the Winooski Police Department, this is when the Winooski player head-butted the Enosburg athlete, resulting in a concussion.
Winooski Police then sent the Chittenden County State’s Attorney’s office a report on Oct. 11 that found probable cause of a misdemeanor assault by the Winooski player, according to a Seven Days article. It would be extremely rare for a Vermont student athlete to be charged with a crime for violence during a game, according to the article.
Prosecutors said they declined to move forward with a case.
State’s Attorney Sarah George provided a letter to The Winooski News that was sent to the Winooski police outlining their reasoning, noting that playing contact sports necessarily involves conflict, and there are ways to resolve conflict through the sport or a governing body.
“Only in the most egregious cases, where the acts are clearly outside the bounds of what could be expected in context of the sport, would criminal prosecution be appropriate,” wrote Deputy State’s Attorney Lucas Collins in the Oct. 25 letter to Dugan.
Officials from both school districts have condemned the violence and alleged racism.
“This continued racial violence against Winooski student-athletes makes me sick to my stomach, boils my blood, and needs to stop,” McMannon said in a letter after the game.
McMannon said this is not the first time the Winooski players, many of whom are BIPOC, have been subjected to this abuse.
Superintendent Lynn Cota of the Franklin County East Supervisory Board also condemned the alleged racism and violence. Enosburg Falls High School later conducted an investigation, in which Winooski players declined to participate, that found Enosburg players, parents, coaches and referees didn’t witness the alleged racism, according to an Oct. 18 VTDigger.org article. The district considers the investigation to be incomplete. Cota did not respond to a request for comment.
The letter to Winooski police declining to prosecute the player can be viewed here.