High school football referee apologizes for racist remarks

A high school football referee is apologizing after audio recordings of him spewing racist remarks were made public. The recordings were obtained during a legal investigation into the non-profit organization-- the Texas Association of Sports Officials (TASO).

In the clip, Mike Atkinson, owner of Atkinson Farms in Spring and a high school football referee with a 45-year tenure is heard using inappropriate and racist language during what he says was supposed to be a private conversation.

“I just went to the mixer the other day. A bunch of f-----g n-----s wanting a free meal.”

In another instance, Atkinson is heard talking about one of his fellow TASO members, who is African American.

“There probably was some of them that Norman thought he had, ’cause he wanted to be the big n-----.”

The clip was recorded by another member of TASO and the entire context of the exchange is unclear.

Over the phone, Atkinson acknowledges that was him in the audio recordings and apologized for those comments.

“I’m awfully embarrassed about the situation. I owe everyone an apology. It's really not me to make them kind of statements. And I just need to owe everyone an apology,” Atkinson said.

However, according to attorney Kathleen O'Connor, Atkinson was not properly punished by the TASO board until she filed a federal complaint based off a whistleblower claim.

“Here’s someone who’s disparaging not only 50 percent of his co-members, but probably 50 percent of kids who play football in the high school Houston area. He basically got a slap on the wrist. And a man who was doing his job, got expelled and lost his livelihood,” O’Connor said.

O'Connor is representing Joe Machol, the former Houston TASO president who claims he was improperly and illegally removed from his position on the board for wanting an audit of the chapter's finances. In court documents, Machol said he was denied his due process rights.

O’Connor says the board's punishments are unfair and inconsistent with its members, citing the racist recording of Atkinson as a prime example.          

Machol is now suing TASO, several of its executive board members and Atkinson hoping to make systemic change.

“It shows that these men will protect their stature and their friends, to the detriment of the organization,” O’Connor said.