Rule of law: even those with high titles need to be held responsible for their actions


Photo courtesy of Jess Rapfogel (Washington Post)

Travis Hawkins, the head coach at Northwest, pictured standing on the sidelines during a football game. Since the fight on Sept. 16, his job has been vacated.

By Caroline Harless, Observations Editor

By now, most people know about the fight that broke out at the football game between Northwest Highschool and Gaithersburg Highschool on Sept. 16. In response to the fight, MCPS has put new safety guidelines in place for all football games. In addition, now three staff members, one at Gaithersburg and two at Northwest, are out of jobs. Should they be held accountable for what happened during the game?

In the aftermath of the fight, officials confirmed that the Gaithersburg athletic specialist position (also known as the athletic director), as well as both the Northwest head and assistant coach positions have been vacated. For the rest of the 2022-23 season there will be temporary replacements, with new staff being hired later this year. The choice to remove the athletic director and football coaches has been met with mixed reactions, some agreeing with the decision, while others opposing it. However, it is imperative that the athletic director and coaches are held accountable and take responsibility for what occurred on Sept 16. 

When the fight first broke out, it was solely among players on the field, but quickly escalated into the stands and between coaches. Instead of trying to stop or control the situation, the athletic director and football coaches started fighting themselves. According to WTOP, the Gaithersburg Athletic Director, William Gant, filed misdemeanor assault charges against the Northwest Head Coach, Travis Hawkins.

As the athletic director and head football coach, their priority should have been to deescalate the situation and attend to students who may have been injured. Unfortunately, the opposite happened—they joined the fight— and now Gant has accused Hawkins of assault. 

According to Emporia State University, the role of an athletic director is to “manage all facets of an athletic program,” which includes sports games. It was the responsibility of the athletic director to manage the football game and step in to stop the fight. However, with how the situation played out, that was not the case. The behavior exhibited by Gant proves that MCPS made the right call in vacating his position, as he should not have engaged in the fight. 

Another role of athletic directors and sports coaches is to set an example for students. Many students look up to their coaches and have a lot of respect for them. As an athletic director or coach, they should be modeling appropriate behavior for students, whether that be during practice or at a game.

Nonetheless, this role was also violated when the athletic director and coaches decided to join in on the fight. Their actions could have influenced students, allowing them to think it was ok to fight, as their coaches—whom they look up to—seemed to condone this behavior. This mindset is dangerous and can significantly worsen the outcome of fights at sports games. The athletic director and coaches knew their actions were inappropriate but continued on, meaning they should be held responsible for what occurred at the game. 

Although the three staff members did not use their power to deescalate the situation, some people argue that it was unfair they lost their jobs. According to NBC Washington, Hawkins issued the statement, “I want to apologize to my school, I want to apologize to my community, I want to apologize to the [administration].” Many believe Hawkins should be given a second chance because he acknowledged his mistakes and is sorry for what happened during the game. 

Despite the fact that Hawkins apologized, MCPS is still in the right for deciding to vacate the three positions. Hawkins (as well as the other two staff members) joining the fight never should have happened to begin with. An apology statement is not enough to make up for the lack of judgment displayed by the athletic director and coaches. By vacating their positions, MCPS is making sure more capable people who could better handle these types of situations are in charge. 

Even though the football fight was not a situation anyone would want to happen again, it brought forth problems in the system which can now be addressed to make sure future sports games run smoother. In order to ensure future situations do not escalate to the level seen on Sept. 16, it is important that MCPS hires new staff members who are reliable, sensible and able to keep control if a fight were to break out during a sporting event. It is also important that the previous athletic director and coaches are held accountable for their actions so they can understand that what they did was dangerous and inappropriate.