Five Amityville High School football players and their families say members of the Comsewogue coaching staff and football team beat, stomped and choked them while yelling racial epithets in a brawl during a game against Comsewogue in Port Jefferson Station on Nov. 1.
According to interviews with the players and their attorney, Bonita Zelman, whose office is in Lake Success, the brawl erupted at the start of the second half when a Comsewogue player was hit hard as he was going out of bounds on his own sideline. The game was stopped after the melee, and Amityville, which was leading 8-6 at the time, was declared the winner.
The parents of Amityville players Travon Duncan, Niem Harvey, Ricky Jean-Michel, Brenden Paula and Elijah Duff have filed papers stating their intention to sue the Comsewogue school district and coaches and Suffolk County, Zelman said. A sixth player, Tahliq Mills, and his family plan to join the effort to sue, said Zelman, who said she will represent all six.
The players each plan to sue for $25 million in damages, Zelman said.
Suffolk County attorney Dennis Brown confirmed receiving the notice of claim. Comsewogue High School administrators declined to comment, citing pending litigation.
In the notice of claim, Duncan said a Comsewogue coach pulled him from behind, choking him with his shoulder pads, after he tried to escape the melee. The coach, Duncan said, called him a racial slur and threatened to kill him.
In an interview Wednesday, Harvey said he ran to the Comsewogue sideline to help his teammates after they were attacked.
"I thought the coach was going to break up the player from hitting me and stuff, but he came from behind, grabbed me and choked me, then put me on the ground,'' Harvey said.
Added Jean-Michel: "The coach was in my face . . . he says, 'I'm going to [expletive] kill you.' "
The notice of claim states that the players and their families will try to prove that Comsewogue wrongfully hired and retained coaches with violent and racist tendencies and that the incident was part of a string of events that targeted Amityville players because they were black, Zelman said.
"They were throwing punches, choking and kicking,'' Mills said. "Niem was on the floor because one of the coaches had him on the floor."