Football player’s suspension overturned after ejection for praising God in end zone

EL MIRAGE, Ariz. (WRIC/KNXV) — An Arizona high school football player who was ejected from a game after praising God in the end zone won’t be suspended from an upcoming playoff game.

The Arizona Interscholastic Association (AIA) overturned 17-year-old Pedro Banda’s one-game suspension Tuesday morning, according to 8News affiliate KNXV.

The senior running back at Dysart High School scored a touchdown on October 30 and then celebrated the way he always does.

“I put my hand up to my face mask, and I pointed to the sky and I looked up for about four seconds,” he said.

The referee then threw a flag and ejected Banda from the game because of unsportsmanlike conduct and excessive celebration.

Banda appealed the ruling and met with members of the AIA on Tuesday, KNXV reports. The suspension was overturned, which means Banda will be able to play on Friday at his school’s first playoff game in decades.

“I am glad that my intentions were heard today,” Banda said in a statement. “My family and I appreciate the support of Dysart High School, the team, my family, and friends. I am also appreciative of the AIA hearing my appeal and overturning the earlier decision. My focus is on joining my team for our first playoff appearance in 21 years.”

Banda’s football coach Manuel Alcantar told KNXV that he appreciates the decision.

“The team is humbled by the amount of support for our team,” Alcantar said. “Now, we are going to focus on the field.”

The AIA posted the following statement on their website:

After review of the video and meeting with the school, player and his family, the call that resulted in the ejection of the Dysart High School player on 10/30/2015 has been overruled.

After receiving an earlier penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct and several verbal warnings from the officials for taunting the opposing team, the player was called for violating the excessive celebration rule (AIA, Rule 9.5.1.A & C Penalty – The second unsportsmanlike foul results in disqualification).  

“Within the context of the game, we understand the mindset of the officials. It was a cumulative effect and the student-players gesture precipitated an additional flag for what they perceived as taunting, not as a faith gesture,” said Gary Whelchel, State Commissioner of Officials.

However, after reviewing the entire game video and meeting with the student-player, the Appeal Committee has decided to give the student the benefit of the doubt and overturn the call. The Committee stated that they did not find that specific action met the “excessive” or “prolonged” rule. This decision, negates the ejection and will allow the Dysart player eligibility to participate in upcoming games and tournaments. 

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