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Referee attacked at youth basketball game says he heard coach tell players 'we're going to get him'

Sidney Freeman was refereeing a youth basketball game at a DeKalb church when he was attacked. Now, he's speaking out.

ATLANTA — In over 15 years of refereeing sports games, Sidney Freeman said he'd never experienced anything like the morning of April 3.

That Sunday, after a youth basketball game at a DeKalb County church, Freeman was attacked. He was pulled to the ground, punched and kicked repeatedly by at least four people, who appear to be both players and spectators.

The sports official spoke with 11Alive's Joe Henke, saying he never expected the game to end that way.

"I just couldn’t believe it," Freeman said.

Before the second half concluded, the referee claims he heard one coach say, "Don’t worry about it. We’re going to get him after the game," and Freeman had a feeling they were talking about him. 

A bystander captured the now-widely-shared altercation on video, in which a horn sounds to signify the end of the game and the violent scene unfolds.

"You see them making a B-line for me," Freeman said. "Now, I’m just looking at the coach. That’s my concentration. And as the coach walks up toward me, I say, 'Coach, don’t walk up on me.'"

Shortly after, he was surrounded by group of people assaulting him. Freeman said the only thing on his mind at the time was "survival," but he didn't want to hurt a child. He said he tried to defend himself by blocking them for as long as he could before he "started swinging."

"I kept thinking something’s going to happen. Either they’re going to stop or somebody is going to help me," Freeman continued. 

Before he knew it, the group scattered, blood was dripping from his ear, and people around him were trying to tend to his wounds while emergency response crews were in route.

According to Freeman, this wasn't a particularly heated game.

"It wasn’t a game where I foresaw this," he explained.

Freeman had never met the coach, players, or refereed a game of theirs. After a trip to the hospital, a few staples in his head, and stitches on his ear, for Freeman, one question remains:

"What made you that mad to then get together after the game to come at me like that? I still haven’t figured that out and that’s the part that kind of hurts me the most is – it's still a game," he said.

A spokesperson with DeKalb County Police told 11Alive a 26-year-old is charged with misdemeanor battery against a sports official in the case. Freeman said he doesn't think those involved should be allowed to play in any more games.

In the initial incident report, Freeman said he was refereeing a tournament for KB Sports Athletic league inside Stronghold Christian Church. The same report also notes that the team in question was from Alabama.

The church later issued a statement offering their prayers and calling the incident an 'unfortunate the turn of events.'

The video of the assault has over 100,000 views on Facebook, and droves of people have shown their support for Freeman in the comments so far.

"I do appreciate the support. For people who come to games and yell at referees: We don't do this to get rich. This is not a get rich type of thing. These guys have a love for being out there," he said. 

Freeman said you can't buy the look on a kid's face when he scores a basket or purchase the sound of a sneaker squeaking on the court, so this altercation isn't going to keep him from his passion of refereeing games in the future. 

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