Lawsuit against youth football league dismissed

Published 12:00 am Sunday, September 29, 2013

SOUTH POINT — A 7-year-old boy will not be allowed to play youth football this season, following a court ruling in a lawsuit claiming civil rights violations.

Judge W. Richard Walton, sitting by assignment, made the final decision last week that the South Point Youth Football League did not violate the civil or constitutional rights of Amber Runyon’s son, Wesley, by not allowing him to join the team this season.

At a hearing on Sept. 18, Christen Finley, attorney for the league’s board of directors, and Derick Fisher, attorney representing the league itself, asked Walton to dismiss the case on the grounds that Runyon could not prove what specific rights were violated.

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Walton’s written judgment, filed Sept. 20, stated Runyon, represented by attorney Jason Smith, did not mention specific civil rights violations and found that she failed to prove “what irreparable harm would be done to this child” if he could not play on the team.

Runyon originally filed a complaint on Aug. 2 that stated two weeks after she registered her son for football she received a letter from the board of directors stating it could not accept the boy’s application due to a conflict of interest with Runyon stemming from alleged incidents during the 2012 season.

The letter from the board, dated July 5, states, “The conflict of interest results from your (Amber Runyon’s) gross display of inappropriate language, harassment to other players, threats of bodily harm to coaches and general poor sportsmanship.”

Runyon denied the allegations that she threatened anyone or acted inappropriately. At a hearing, Magistrate D.L. McWhorter ordered that the boy be allowed to start practicing with the team until a final ruling was made. Runyon was not allowed at practices during the injunction and she had to pay a $2,500 bond for the temporary order to remain in place.

Upon Walton’s ruling, Runyon was able to get her bond money returned.

But as far as she is concerned, the fight isn’t over, even if he has to play in another district.

She wrote a letter to Walton pleading for the judge to issue a ruling that Wesley be able to transfer school districts before the open enrollment period in April.

“Given my son’s unfortunate circumstance and given how badly the child wants to play football, a ruling from your court might possibly have a favorable influence on the outcome of any vote the league may take on this issue,” the letter stated. “An exception to their bylaw would allow Wesley to be enrolled at another school in the Tri-State Youth Football League and play on that school’s team.”

Runyon said, if she couldn’t transfer her son sooner than open enrollment, she would transfer him when open enrollment began.