Editor’s note: Video included in this article may be disturbing to some
SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – A now-fired youth football coach and Chatham County Sheriff’s Office employee caught on video striking a player will face child abuse charges, according to a Florida official.
The coach, identified as Gerrel Williams, was seen screaming, slapping a player’s helmet several times, at one point knocking the child to the ground. The video was posted on social media and has since gained viral attention.
The incident happened Dec. 7 in Kissimmee, Florida, where the Savannah Gators were reportedly competing in the American Youth Football (AYF) National Championship.
The Osceola County Sheriff’s Office in Florida was contacted the following day to review a video showing possible child abuse. According to an incident report, a deputy reviewed the video and made contact with the player’s mother who “specifically stated she did not want to press charges.”
The sheriff’s office instead sent an information report to the Department of Children and Families.
However, on Friday, Osceola County Maj. Jacob Ruiz confirmed to News 3 the decision has been made by the sheriff’s office and local state attorney’s office to file charges for child abuse, regardless of the parent’s decision.
“I’m not going to make excuses for what I did. I was wrong. I shouldn’t have disciplined him in public, I should’ve waited until we got back,” Williams said in a video shared by a friend on social media.
“At the end of the day, I apologize to him, the kids, the city down here and my family back at home,” he continued.
Williams said the player and his parents have forgiven him.
Still, many in Savannah and across the nation expressed outrage over the incident. Athletes, including Lakers star LeBron James, took to social media to condemn the coach’s actions.
“Couldn’t be my kid,” James wrote in an Instagram story, adding, “If I (was) there and it’s not even my kid we gone have more than words for sure.”
Savannah State University alumnus and NFL player Shannon Sharpe tweeted: “If that’s my child, I’ve got to have him.”
Meanwhile, a statement from AYF says Williams — who coached 9-year-old players — is banned for life from the organization and any of its events. He is also prohibited from entering the venue.
AYF says all of its coaches go through a complete background check, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention concussion training, and coaching training. Coaches are also required to sign an annual code of conduct, which AYF says Williams violated.
The Chatham County Sheriff’s Office issued a statement to News 3 saying they “are very disturbed” by Williams’ actions and do not condone his behavior.
As of Thursday, Williams is no longer an employee of the sheriff’s office. Officials say he was a counselor in the detention center.