Recreational leagues and amateur sports teams not only serve as the perfect opportunity for would-be professional athletes to live out their competitive dreams, but they also provide participants with an alternative for regular exercise and a mechanism to build camaraderie with potential life-long friends or business associates.
As someone who’s played recreational sports, I often wondered about the people I shared hours of my life with every week but knew absolutely nothing about when it came to their personal lives. Were they Trump supporters? What were their thoughts on marriage equality? Did they agree that Marvin Gaye’s “Here, My Dear” was a deeply-conflicted masterpiece?
So imagine the shock and horror of finding out that your teammate on the Cleveland Warriors—a semipro football team in Northeast Ohio comprised of police officers, prison guards, and first responders—was the cop who shot and killed Tamir Rice.
Yeah. That’s a lot.
That’s also exactly what happened to Randy Knight, one of five Black men who pulled up to the Warriors practice on Saturday to protest Timothy Loehmann’s participation with the team, per WOSU Radio.
The ruse is no more.
“I just want you to know practice is over with,” Knight said. “Because they’re harboring a murderer.”
Knight, who organized the protest and quit the team upon learning about Loehmann’s identity, has every right to be upset. He had no idea whatsoever that he’d been playing with Loehmann until a clerk at a sporting goods store connected the dots.
“I’m in pictures with this guy,” he told WOSU Radio. “I’m playing football with this guy. You know how my family would think of me?”
He also believes that the individuals in charge of the team purposely concealed Loehmann’s identity. Bill Sofranko, coach of the Warriors, denied this allegation in an interview with the New York Times.
“That’s not a recognizable face, you know?” Knight said. “Everyone else is called by his last name. Everyone else—Knight, Sullivan. But when it comes to Timothy they called him Tim or Timmy.”
Knight takes particular issue with Loehmann’s presence on the team because Knight was the one who took him under his wing. Noting that the former police officer was “noticeably bad” at football, Knight taught him how to assume a three-point stance, proper hand placement at the line of scrimmage, and “firing off” the line.
According to Sofranko, Loehmann was allowed to remain on the team—even though he was fired from the Cleveland Police Department in 2017—while his arbitration appeal was pending. After he lost that appeal in 2019, Sofranko removed him. Yet oddly enough, Loehmann is still permitted to continue practicing with the Warriors.
Sofranko also believes that Knight’s vendetta against the Warriors has everything to do with his own removal from the team weeks ago—Knight is no longer eligible to play for the team since he left the Ohio corrections department—and absolutely nothing to do with Loehmann.
“He’s using this Tamir Rice, this Black-white thing to support his anger and vengeance,” Sofranko told the Times. “Every Black person on the team supports Tim Loehmann.”
As news begins to circulate about Loehmann’s involvement with the team, activists and Rice’s own mother, Samaria, have voiced their displeasure with his participation.
“I think it’s careless and irresponsible for them to allow him to play,” Samaria told the Times. “His career is over as a police officer in the state of Ohio as far as I’m concerned. It’s just ridiculous.”
Henry Hilow, Loehmann’s lawyer, counters that his client reserves the right to move forward with his life, too.
“Every time he does something now in his life, there’s going to be someone picketing?” Hilow asked the Times. “There’s never been criminal charges against him. Whether people agree or disagree, that’s the reality of the situation.”
It is the reality of the situation. But another component of that reality is that a 26-year-old man has yet to be punished for stealing the life of an innocent 12-year-old boy. And for that reason alone, Loehmann’s Saturdays would be better served inside of a prison cell than being berated by protestors on a football field.
Don’t tell that to Sofranko, though.