Ref accepts apology
after getting pushed

By Nick Abramo

Kaleo Benz, the referee who was pushed down from behind by Baldwin's Ekolu Saffrey after a state soccer tournament game Thursday, was more shaken up than hurt after the incident.

Saffrey and his family apologized to Benz after the game, the referee said.

"I was in the locker room and a policeman came in and asked if I would accept an apology," Benz said last night. "He (Saffrey) was crying and his dad was crying a little bit and he (Saffrey) hugged me."

But the apology will never undo the harm.

"You have to show respect for a referee," Benz said. "It's OK to argue, but there is a line you can't cross."

Baldwin forfeited today's consolation game and withdrew from the tournament after Thursday's 4-3 loss to Pearl City.

Hawaii High School Athletic Association executive director Keith Amemiya will be looking into steps to ensure the safety of the referees in the future.

"It's everyone's responsibility, the coaches, the parents and the players themselves," Amemiya said. "There is no easy solution, but we all have to work together to make sure something like this doesn't happen again.

"Attacking a referee is a very serious matter. It certainly can't hurt to remind the coaches to teach sportsmanship and emphasize that although winning is certainly a worthy goal, it's more important to play hard and with dignity."

Amemiya called it an unfortunate incident, but credited the Baldwin contingent for taking quick action and forfeiting

"It's a credit to them that they took quick and decisive action in taking the forfeit," Amemiya said. "And it's a positive sign that they're all remorseful and not making excuses."

Benz, who filed paperwork with the Honolulu Police Department after the game, said he's not sure if he'll press charges.

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