Things That Matter

A Florida Politician Verbally Assaulted A Group Of Latinos But They Recorded The Incident

Late last month, a teenage Puerto Rican tennis player was accosted by local politician Martin Hyde at a tennis club in Sarasota, Florida. The tennis player captured the incident on video, which was later posted to social media by Puerto Rican attorney Alvin Couto de Jesus, who had originally gotten the video from the athlete’s uncle, Javier Irizarry.

In the video, Hyde is seated, speaking tersely with the athlete and his peers, before following them as they begin to leave the premises.

According to Irizarry, his 15-year-old nephew was invited to play in the Casely International Tennis Championship, which was hosted last week by Bath & Racquet Club at the Celsius Tennis Academy in Sarasota, Florida. The athlete was practicing for the tournament when, allegedly, Hyde approached him and his friends in an aggressive manner, instructing them to “cut grass” and “get out.” The video’s audio begins with Hyde telling one of the players to “keep [your] mouth shut.” The tennis player and his peers rebuke Hyde’s confrontation, calling him out for making racist comments and demanding that they leave.

“You’re telling me to cut grass because I’m Hispanic,” says one of the players. “That’s racism, man. How can you say something like that?”

The players continue to draw attention to Hyde’s racist comments before turning to leave the scene. Hyde gets up from his seat and follows them, crying, “Out! Out!” all the while.

Before leaving the Tennis Academy, the teens report the incident to Academy staff. Meanwhile, Hyde interrupts and tries to invalidate their story, accusing them of being disruptive and intoxicated.

“I don’t know what drugs they’re on,” he says, insisting that he is a “member of the club” and that he wants the teenagers to leave. The athletes repeat his comment about “cutting grass,” and while some of Hyde’s speech is muffled, his response to the teen is clear as day: “Yes,” he says. “So what?” When a staff member engages in an attempt to solve the conflict, Hyde encourages her to “throw them out,” eventually telling the teens to “shut up” before abruptly walking away.

Latino Rebels reported the story and shared the video on Friday. It has since circulated widely on social media, and as a result, Sarasota’s Bath & Racquet Club has 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.”

An active candidate for the District 2 Sarasota City Commission, Hyde planned to quit the race after news of the incident spread. However, he’s since announced that he may continue running. And in spite of the video evidence, Hyde adamantly denies making racist comments to the Puerto Rican tennis players, though he does admit that he acted inappropriately.

“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. “But I simply didn’t say those things, and that’s why they’re not in the video.”

Hyde also denies allegations—made by Twitter user @sergiodilan101, who Latino Rebels have identified as Irizarry’s nephew—that Hyde offered him $50,000 in exchange for the video.

In this Twitter thread, @sergiodilan101 recounts the story in great detail, expressing that before this incident, he and his compañero had never felt so “upset, frustrated, uncomfortable, and sad.” He encourages all Latinos to stand together and support each other in situations like this, and he has received an abundant outpouring of support and affirmation, both from people online, political figures, and family.

“We had a long talk about reality and I explained to him that this guy represents a really small minority and that his behavior wasn’t normal,” Irizarry told NBC News. “I hope by sharing the video we can prevent something like this from happening again.”

Additionally,  Peter Vivaldi, a former Republican candidate for the Florida state Senate—who is also of Puerto Rican descent—responded to the video by saying that “if you’re a public figure . . . you run for everybody, you represent everybody.”

He added, “This is not what we want to represent any party and less do we want that in the state of Florida, where we’re talking about Puerto Ricans that are American citizens. We need to make sure if you’re Republican or Democrat, if you’re saying things that are not appropriate, we need to call you out.”

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