Last week, a Florida politician was caught on camera telling a Latino teen practicing tennis to “cut grass” and “speak English.”
According to NBC News, the 15-year-old athlete from Puerto Rico, who did not want to be identified, was invited to play in the Casely International Championship at the Bath & Racquet Club at the Celsius Tennis Academy in Sarasota, Florida. During practice on November 26, the teen was approached by Martin Hyde, a candidate for the Sarasota City Commission, who allegedly made several racist remarks at him and his friends.
The incident was caught on video and posted on social media by Alvin Couto de Jesus, a lawyer who was contacted by the teen’s uncle Javier Irizarry, who is also an attorney.
In the video, Irizarry’s nephew, who was in town from the archipelago for the event, and his friends are heard confronting Hyde.
Menor boricua jugador de tenis fue expulsado de las facilidades de Celsius Tennis Academy por hablar español. Participaba del Casely International Championship en Sarasota, Fla. El el video un hombre blanco lo saca de las facilidades y saca en cara su poder económico. Denúncialo. pic.twitter.com/Q6PruytFnD
— Alvin Couto de Jesús (@alvinrcouto) November 29, 2019
“You’re telling me to cut grass because I’m Hispanic,” one of the players is heard saying. “That’s racism, man. How can you say something like that? Aren’t you human?”
In response, the Republican politician said, “Yes, so what?”
When the teens attempted to report the matter to staff at the academy, Hyde is heard trying to discredit the boys by claiming they are on drugs.
“Look at these agitated … I don’t know what drugs they’re on,” Hyde said, also daring the teens to call his friend, the chief of police.
While Irizarry said he is not planning on suing the politician, he noted that he is spreading the video around to raise awareness about what happened.
Since the video has circulated on social media, gaining traction when Latino Rebels shared it on Friday, Sarasota’s Bath & Racquet Club banned Hyde from its premises.
“We have kids from all over the world, Central America, Latin America, who play here and compete to get scholarships for college,” Cary Cohenour, the director of Celsius Tennis Academy, which leases courts to the club, told NBC News. “The whole incident was out of control and though Celsius wasn’t involved, we want people to know that we denounce racism here.”
Hyde, who is debating dropping out of the race, told the news outlet that he regrets his “boorish and inappropriate behavior.”
“I was rude and I regret that. It was a long day and my kids were being disturbed while they were having their lesson, because the boys were being loud,” Hyde said.
However, the candidate denies other claims the teens’ made, including allegations that the candidate offered the boy who recorded the video $50,000 to delete it.
“I simply didn’t say those things, and that’s why they’re not on the video,” Hyde said of the accusations.
He added that he was being used as “a pawn” in the midst of growing friction between Puerto Rico and the U.S. government.