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Referees Wary of Centennial : Prep sports: Several dozen have apparently refused or expressed concern over assignments after punching incident.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Several dozen high school football and basketball officials who work games in the South Bay have expressed concern about or refused to accept assignments that involve Compton Centennial High, whose football team is in the midst of a controversy stemming from a referee-slugging incident at Beverly Hills on Oct. 20.

Ken Wilson, head of the South Bay Officials Unit, said most of the officials assigned to Centennial football games for the rest of the season have asked out of their duties. But he said he has persuaded them to accept their assignments.

“I have strongly discouraged them from backing out because it would unfairly punish the kids,” Wilson said. “They’ve accepted that, but many are not happy about it.”

Basketball is another matter, however. Wilson said he is having difficulty putting together assignments for the coming season because so many officials have refused to work Compton Centennial games.

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He added that at least five African American officials were among those expressing concerns.

The concern began after Centennial player Kumasi Simmons punched referee Ken Smotrys during the second half of the game at Beverly Hills Oct. 20. Leo Terrell, Simmons’ attorney, said his client was provoked when Smotrys uttered a racial epithet at him.

Another Centennial player, Vincent Brooks, claims Smotrys pushed him down and used a racial epithet with him during the same game.

Smotrys has denied all allegations. He and Simmons were arrested and charged with simple battery. Charges have been dropped against Smotrys. Simmons, 16, is to appear before a Beverly Hills police investigator Tuesday.

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A review of the incident was stepped up Tuesday when the CIF hired a private investigation firm headquartered in Burbank. Matt McGee is heading the investigation and will be assisted by Fred Horel, a retired police officer from Northern California.

McGee, 29, said the sole purpose of the investigation is to determine if Smotrys used racial epithets. He interviewed Smotrys for an hour Wednesday morning and plans to interview players and coaches from both schools within the next week.

On Tuesday, Terrell released statements from several Centennial players he would not name that he said helped corroborate his client’s claim.

McGee has read those statements and said he hopes to talk to all of those players. He also plans to interview Simmons, who was terminated by the Compton Unified School District on Monday for being improperly enrolled at Centennial. Simmons re-enrolled at Ayala High in Chino Hills on Tuesday. He attended Ayala for three years before transferring to Centennial in September.

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Ayala officials said Simmons, a senior, was told he will not be eligible for athletics for the rest of the school year. Under CIF rules, any athlete who hits an official loses all eligibility for at least 18 months.

Centennial (2-6) is expected to forfeit victories over Compton and El Segundo because Simmons played in both games.


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