Mercy rule dispute erupts over football league for 8-year-olds

There is a dispute over sportsmanship in a football league in Georgia — in a league including 8-year-olds.

The problem in the Gwinnett Football League, according to CBS46, arose when Elijah Burrell of the Lawrenceville Black Knights intercepted a pass and scored a touchdown last Saturday.

The issue: The Black Knights were leading Collins Hill, 32-0, and that touchdown upped the difference to 38-0, which surpassed the league’s mercy rule.

That kicked in a $500 fine and led to the coach of the Lawrenceville Black Knights being suspended for a week.

It also set off a dispute.

"We were all super excited, he was beyond excited and we were fined for it," said Brooke Burdett, whose son picked off the pass.

"He had no idea. This is his first year. This was his first touchdown. He is an 8-year-old boy making a pick-six."

Burdett said running up the score was not intentional. On the next play they even tried to let the other team score but Burdett said they refused to catch the ball.

"For the league to think we intentionally went out there to run the score up is absurd," football mom Chando John said.

"How do I explain to an 8-year-old kid that your coach has been suspended because your teammate unintentionally scored? It is hard having an 8-year-old in flight to think of everything everybody has said, other than ‘I need to make a touchdown.’ "

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Burdett said they would have accepted a $100 fine, but said a $500 fine and the coach’s suspension is excessive.

League president Erik Richards offered a differing view.

Richards said the team made a mockery of the game by laying on the ground, running off the field and mocking the other players.

Richards said the fine for violating the mercy rule is $100. In some cases, Richards said the fine will be waived if it is a defensive play, similar to the play that was scored. Richards said he is glad that the media covered what happened because he wants it to be an example for other teams who he said show unsportsmanlike conduct, that they will be fined.