A South Florida teen who was suspended twice from lacrosse over a play on the field is being suspended from football during his senior year and will lose half a season of playing lacrosse, a ruling some believe is unfair, racially targeted and could cost him his future.
Luther Johnson V, or LJV, has never been disciplined on or off the field -- until recently. The Florida High School Athletics Association suspended the Christopher Columbus High School student twice for what coaches and referees called "unsportsmanlike" behavior on the field.
He was suspended for five weeks after a game against Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, and on the first day back from that suspension, he was ejected again for a play against Belen Jesuit Preparatory.
On Monday, the FHSAA heard Luther's case and penalized both offenses, with his entire senior year off the football field and nine weeks off the lacrosse field.
"It's obvious he's being signaled out," said his mother, Antoinette Johnson, who also alleges that at one point, other players yelled racial slurs toward her son. "Other children or other players made worse plays and harder hits, or actually injured players."
The family hired an attorney ahead of the hearing and aren't planning to back down. They plan to pursue even further and appeal the ruling.
"Black individuals are often considered stronger when they are as older than they are, larger than they are, stronger than they are," said Bradford Brown of the NAACP. "So this results in a combination of not conscious racism, but unconscious racism."
The FHSAA says this isn't unprecedented - in fact, they say it's policy. They claim Luther's combined violations led to a level 3 violation, which made Luther ineligible for any high school sports for a year.
In a statement to NBC 6, they said the plays were unsportsmanlike, displaying malicious and hateful nature toward an opponent beyond the normal scope of the game. They also said this blow against a Belen player was violent and resulted in an injury, which the family disputes.
"We had to remind them that this was not with intention to injure or with malice, that this is a physical contact sport," said the family's attorney, Rawsi Williams.