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Ariz. football player suspended for pointing to sky is cleared

November 3, 2015 / Football
An Arizona high school football player suspended for pointing to the sky after a touchdown has been cleared to play by the state’s athletic association.

El Mirage Dysart running back Pedro Banda had his suspension nullified by the Appeals Committee. | Photo via DHSathletics.org
El Mirage Dysart running back Pedro Banda had his suspension nullified by the Appeals Committee. | Photo via DHSathletics.org

El Mirage Dysart running back Pedro Banda won his appeal Tuesday and will be permitted to participate in Saturday’s playoff game, the team’s first postseason appearance in 21 years. Banda was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct during Friday’s game after scoring a touchdown and briefly pointing to the sky. Banda said he was thanking God.

The flag was Banda’s second unsportsmanlike penalty of the game, prompting an immediate ejection and disqualification from the team’s next game. The Arizona Interscholastic Association’s Appeals Committee ruled Tuesday that the gesture was not excessive and it nullified the second penalty, allowing Banda to suit up for the playoffs.

From the AIA:

After review of the video and meeting with the school, player and his family, the call that resulted in the ejection of the Dysart High School player on 10/30/2015 has been overruled.

After receiving an earlier penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct and several verbal warnings from the officials for taunting the opposing team, the player was called for violating the excessive celebration rule (AIA, Rule 9.5.1.A & C Penalty – The second unsportsmanlike foul results in disqualification).  

“Within the context of the game, we understand the mindset of the officials. It was a cumulative effect and the student-players gesture precipitated an additional flag for what they perceived as taunting, not as a faith gesture,” said Gary Whelchel, State Commissioner of Officials.

However, after reviewing the entire game video and meeting with the student-player, the Appeal Committee has decided to give the student the benefit of the doubt and overturn the call. The Committee stated that they did not find that specific action met the “excessive” or “prolonged” rule. This decision, negates the ejection and will allow the Dysart player eligibility to participate in upcoming games and tournaments. 

The story made national headlines and was discussed on Good Morning America. Dysart coach J.R. Alcantar told The Arizona Republic he never expected the situation to become such a big deal.

“We never thought something so small would go public so big,” Alcantar told the newspaper. “We just wanted him to play. We wanted him to have a chance to play in a playoff game that hasn’t come in more than two decades. He deserves that.”

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2 thoughts on “Ariz. football player suspended for pointing to sky is cleared”

  1. I agree with the decision by both the referee and the state association. I think they got this one right; the young man has to know that his previous indiscretions in the game have an effect on future decision by officials who found him to be showing less than a good sportsmanship. Yet it should only effect that game and not future games. Great job AZ!!!

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