Coach removed from children’s lacrosse championship game for outburst says he regrets his actions

Coach removed from children’s lacrosse championship game for outburst says he regrets his actions

A coach of a Whitby lacrosse team says he’d “take back” his actions at the U9 provincial championship game against Six Nations last month that earned him a penalty for making a travesty of the game.

“I don’t wanna be seen as this person,” said Derek Pierson, assistant coach of the Whitby Warriors U9 lacrosse team.

The Warriors received two travesty of game penalties and a Whitby player and fan were ejected from the game. The team was also handed four other major penalties not counting the travesty of game calls. The team from Six Nations was handed two major penalties, one an equipment violation.

Pierson said he was the coach who appeared in a video recorded at the Aug. 8 game in Whitby that was circulated on social media and sent to CBC Indigenous. 

In the video, which starts off showing players on the floor, a man is heard yelling before the camera pans over to an area between the Six Nations and Whitby benches. 

WATCH | Disturbance following penalty: 

Lacrosse coach directed off the floor

A referee directs a man off the floor following a penalty call. CBC News has blurred elements of the video to protect the identity of children involved.

A man wearing a blue shirt walks a Whitby player to the team’s bench, then the man appears to get into an altercation with an official and is directed off the floor.

Pierson received a “making a travesty of the game” penalty, the most severe infraction in lacrosse, for his conduct toward his opponents. 

Pierson said his son, who plays for the Whitby Warriors U9 team, told him he was “speared in the neck” by an opponent, precipitating Pierson’s outburst.

“I turned around and yelled to the coaching staff that they cheated and they’re cheaters,” Pierson said. 

Several witnesses told CBC News that he raised his middle finger. Pierson said, “I never raised my finger to a kid once.”

Although he said his aggression wasn’t directed toward the eight-year-old boy who’d just been given a penalty for hitting Pierson’s son, he said it may have been difficult to distinguish who he was screaming at.

“I was looking directly at the [Six Nations] coaching staff,” Pierson said.

The Six Nations player’s mother told CBC Indigenous her son was traumatized by Pierson’s conduct and that he didn’t want to continue playing the championship game. She said the child’s father had to sit with him to calm him down because he was shaking and crying.

Pierson said he had no idea of the impact of his aggression on the boy until he saw media reports.

“My son was hurt; so now I understand how these people must feel if their kid was hurt,” he said.

He said if he could do things differently he would “take a step back and take a breath and realize it’s just a kids’ lacrosse game.”

Wrote apology email

Pierson said he wasn’t proud of his behaviour leading up to the travesty penalty.

“I missed my photo at the end of the year on the floor with my team and I had to take a photo outside the rink with my son and his medal.”

Man smiling

Derek Pierson says he wrote in an apology email ‘I’m totally at fault and was wrong for what I did.’ (Ajax Fence)

Pierson did say that after being ejected, he changed his shirt and re-entered the building. 

“I wanted to see the boys, how they did,” Pierson said.

Pierson said he wrote an email and sent it to the Six Nations Minor Lacrosse Association (SNMLA). In it, he said he apologized to the team. Current members of the SNMLA confirmed they received the email but CBC News has not seen it.

Pierson said he wrote, “I’m totally at fault and was wrong for what I did,” and that he hopes the boy is not discouraged from playing lacrosse because of his actions during the gold medal game. 

Wayne Hill, head coach of the Six Nations U9 team, said he has not seen the email. 

“I appreciate him for he wants to apologize but you know I don’t want to see it in a letter, to be honest. I want to see it publicly and I want to hear it from him,” said Hill. 

Hill said coaches can get frustrated when a “call’s not gonna go your way or, the kids make a mistake on a play or something, even a hit like that. But that’s no reason to go out there … and jump the boards.”

Hearing held 

Hill suggested there should be a news conference with all involved parties to address the Aug. 8  incidents so teams can move forward. 

He also wants to know what changes the Ontario Lacrosse Association [OLA] is going to make for other Indigenous players and Indigenous teams in the OLA.

The U9 team manager for Six Nations has said teams from Six Nations, Akwesasne and Kahnawà:ke emailed complaints to OLA throughout the season and filed petitions about taunting, unfair referee calls and racism their players faced.

Requests for comment from OLA on the teams’ petitions and how the organization addresses racism or discrimination on the floor were not responded to.

When asked about Six Nations’ allegations of racism within the game, Pierson said this was his first time coaching against Six Nations, and he has never heard any of the Whitby coaching staff speak in a derogatory manner about Indigenous teams they’ve played against.

OLA said a hearing to review a number of issues took place on Sept. 9, including Pierson’s travesty of game penalty and ejection. The results from that hearing, including whether Pierson will be suspended and for how long, are expected within seven business days. The OLA said it will share the decision with the disciplined participant.

“In this circumstance, we have also committed to sharing the hearing results with the Six Nations Minor Lacrosse Association’s president as well,” said Jeramie Bailey, OLA executive director.

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