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Sarasota Herald Tribune (Florida)


In an effort to right a wrong and clear his name from accusations of racism, fired Venice High football coach John Peacock penned a letter of apology to Braden River High football coach Curt Bradley on Saturday morning.

Fired on Wednesday after a series of improprieties, Peacock apologized for liking a tweet sent by one of his players, Drue Streich, who asked Bradley if he used a Nivea tanning product as a means of darkening his skin.

In the letter, Peacock said he "made a very poor decision" and "set a bad example." He also said "race" never entered "my or my player's mind."

The head coach of the Indians for the past 11 years, Peacock wrote that "it is important to me that You accept my sincerity."

Peacock did not return a call seeking comment on the letter.

Earlier last week, Manatee

County asked employees not to comment on the situation. Inquiries sent to Bradley and Manatee County Athletics Director Jason Montgomery via text were unanswered.

Coming off the second state championship in program history and the first since 2000, Peacock wrote, "I have a tremendous amount of respect for you and the program that you have built. Your teams are always our toughest games.

"I hope Braden River and Venice can continue to have a healthy competition moving forward. I am truly sorry for all of this taking place."

Peacock concluded signing the letter, "Very Respectfully, John Peacock."

The Indians and Pirates have built one of the top rivalries in the state the past three seasons, battling for district titles and in the regional playoffs. Venice ended Braden River's season the past two seasons, while the Pirates won the district title and the regional semifinal against the Indians in 2015.

The recent incident followed a video of Braden River holding illegal practice sessions that was turned in to the Florida High School Athletic Association by Peacock. On April 20, the FHSAA sanctioned Braden River. The program must forfeit its entire 20 spring practices and the school was fined $40,000, $1,600 which must be paid with the balance held in abeyance as long as not violations occur during the 2018-19 season. The school and football program were also placed on administrative probation.

The Pirates' spring game at Immokalee was canceled, and Braden River officials were required to aid Immokalee in finding a suitable spring foe. Immokaee coach Rodelin Anthony confirmed via twitter Saturday they will be part of a three-team jamboree with Lakeland and, ironically, Venice on May 16 at Powell-Davis Stadium.

On April 21, Bradley wrote a letter with the heading "Line Crossed" to Peacock, both school boards and school officials citing Streich's April 17 tweet that eventually was deleted saying Peacock's "like" was a racial attack on him and his family.

Bradley, who comes from a multi-racial background, cited his grandparents being in the civil rights movement and that they have "lived through many injustices dealt to them from ignorance."

Peacock coached the first two days of spring practice Monday and Tuesday. Wednesday morning, following a Tuesday night meeting with school officials, Venice High principal Eric Jackson fired Peacock. Prior to the announcement, Jackson gave Peacock a 24-hour window to resign, an option Peacock refused.

At the time of his firing, Peacock again criticized Bradley.

"Coach Bradley made a decision to not follow the rules with practicing and bottom line, I'm the one who gets punished for it," Peacock told Herald-Tribune columnist Doug Fernandes. "And I know the outcome of my decision of how I went about turning him in, to know that someone is getting an unfair advantage just really rubs you the wrong way.

"I guess because (Bradley) was going to be pushing the race card that they decided (to fire me)."

Jackson said it was "a compilation of events and concerns," not just liking the tweet, that "have taken us to this point."

Venice High has been fined, reprimanded and was forced to forfeit all nine wins from the 2009 district championship season because of a series of infractions stemming from coaches illegally housing student-athletes, improperly contacting a player from another school and placing tissues and diapers in the visiting coaches office at Venice High prior to last year's game against North Port High. Peacock was suspended from coaching last spring because of the illegal contact with North Port High student-athlete C.K. Poulos.

Larry Shannon since has been named interim football coach at Venice High.

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April 30, 2018


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