A Chicago-area father is accused of using his football referee’s uniform to influence a playoff game his son was playing in.
Simeon Career Academy, a public school on Chicago’s south side that produced notable athletes such as Derrick Rose and Jabari Parker, played Nazareth Academy, a Catholic school in the suburb of La Grange Park, in Class 7A state quarterfinal game on Nov. 10. Nazareth won the game, 34–27, but not without controversy.
A lawsuit filed against the Illinois high school sports governing body (the IHSA) on Nov. 16 by friends, family and boosters of the Simeon team alleges that the father of a Nazareth player successfully swayed the officiating crew in his son’s team’s favor by dressing as a referee.
The man, Richard Mercado, does work as a high school football official but was not part of the crew calling the Simeon-Nazareth game. Mercado wore his full referee’s uniform and “conferenced with the referees who would be working the game” before it started, the suit alleges. He is also accused standing on the Nazareth sideline for the duration of the game and communicating with the referees.
“For instance, during one critical call in the game, during which the Simeon quarterback dove for a touchdown that was called back, Mercado is standing right next to the referee and outside of the restricted box,” the suit reads.
The suit also includes a series of Facebook comments in which Mercado appears to cop to the scheme.
“I didn’t make one bad call. I made sure the best team won,” Mercado wrote, followed by two thinking emojis and two smirking emojis.
“Naz needed me,” another reads. “I did what was needed to make sure Naz won,” Mercado wrote in a third comment.
The suit quotes IHSA assistant executive director Sam Knox as acknowledging that Mercado should not have been present in that capacity.
“You’re right,” Knox said. “A Nazareth father was on the sideline dressed as an official. I wish I had a good reason why that happened. It shouldn’t have happened.”
The suit seeks to have the IHSA vacate the result of the game and fire Mercado and the officials who worked the game.