Ginger Williams, who was watching the game, posted photos of the incident to Facebook on Sunday with the heading “Soccer While Black.” She said a woman in a golf cart at the game in St. Johns County told a black father that “harassment won’t be tolerated,” even though he had been directing his son to listen to the referee.
Chuck Mulligan, a spokesman for the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Department, said the woman who called the police, being dubbed “Golfcart Gail,” is a field marshal.
The father informed the marshal that he was only speaking to his son and not the referee, which is not allowed, but “Golfcart Gail just would not let this go,” Williams wrote.
The father, whose identity has not been revealed, began to leave in an effort to defuse the situation, Williams said, but the woman in the golf cart still called police saying, “she no longer felt safe with his threatening behavior.”
Maria Morales-Walther filmed the encounter in which the father tells the field marshal, “I wasn’t talking to you. … I was talking to my son, and I still get this from you.”
Morales-Walter said when deputies arrived, the woman told them that the father “was being aggressive and ‘coming at’ her,” but “in my video, that was the most aggression he showed.”
“I started filming because she would not leave the father alone,” Morales-Walter told NBC News. “There was no reason for her to call the cops,” she said, adding that the woman had not identified herself as a field attendant of any kind.
Another video, shot by Ginger Williams, shows two St. Johns County deputies arrive at the game.
The father explained to one of them that he did nothing wrong. “I was talking to my son, no one else … Listen I play by the rules. I know how sports are,” the father says.
“I don’t understand why this woman felt the need to call the police on this man,” Williams can be heard saying in the video as she films. The officer tells her that “anybody can call the police at any time for any reason. We’ll respond.
Williams wrote in her Facebook post that the field marshal had not called police on a parent who had been “ejected from this game” due to a “disturbance.”
Gary Easom, president of the Ponte Vedra Athletic Association, the athletic association the field marshal works for, said in a statement that “authorities were not called solely for this particular incident, but as a result of a culmination of several immediate prior incidents” at the game.
Those incidents included a parent being kicked out of the game for being verbally abusive to the teenage referees, and another parent getting scolded for cursing in the stands, Easom told NBC affiliate WTLV.
“I have parents that are out of control and need to be removed from a youth soccer game,” the field marshal can be heard in audio from the 911 call telling a dispatcher.
Easom said if game attendees “behave badly” after warnings, “staff is left with no choice but to call law enforcement.”
“That is an extreme circumstance which seldom occurs, but that is exactly what happened in this situation,” he added. “Our team acted appropriately to protect the children.”
The deputy eventually told the father that he had no reason to detain him, to which the field marshal responds: “Good, I didn’t want anything like that done.”
Mulligan, the spokesman for the sheriff’s department, said the department gets about 40 disturbance calls a day, and is obligated to respond. He said the officers spoke with those remaining at the game, and “found that there was no crime whatsoever.”
The situation was one of three in a week in which white people have been recorded and shamed on social media for calling police or claiming to call police on black people who are going about their daily routines.
Last Wednesday, a woman in New York City said she was calling police after accusing a 9-year-old of grabbing her backside. Surveillance footage showed he hadn’t. And on Friday, a black man filmed as a white woman tried to block him from getting into his apartment building because she didn’t believe he lived there. He said officers showed up to his apartment after he proved to her that he did.