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Taxpayers could end up paying

Taxpayers could end up paying for uniforms ordered by the Sarasota Gators, whose players and coaches made headlines last year for a brawl that landed four people in jail and a referee in the hospital.City Commissioner Shannon Snyder wants the city to pay about $4,800 for the cost of uniforms ordered by the team’s coaches, who say they were promised money that was abruptly taken away after the fight.”I think it’s just one of those things where people got caught in the middle,” said Snyder, who added an item to today’s City Commission meeting to discuss whether to write a check for the uniforms.Last September, the Sarasota Gators were being considered for a $25,000 grant from the city when home video of the brawl surfaced. The incident raised questions about a growing ugliness in youth sports and whether the team should get public money.The Gators lost the grant after video of the fight went viral and played on national TV shows, including “The Today Show.”The fight was sparked after Gators coach Dexter Austin chucked a water bottle at the referee and chased after him. The referee threw a punch in self defense and the other coaches and players joined the mob on the football field.Three coaches and one player were arrested and later charged with felony battery.Before the fight, it seemed likely the Gators would receive a city grant, even with heightened standards placed on nonprofits, some of which had been misspending money as grant managers turned a blind eye.Gators coaches ordered 82 Russell football jerseys from Sarasota based Ball and Shoe Sports Center.Dave Ruth, president of Ball and Shoe, says he placed the order only because city staff had promised that the grant money was available to reimburse him.Ruth said Friday that he would not have purchased equipment for the Gators because they already owed him money.

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