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Casket used to intimidate children at football game in Miami Gardens

Miami Gardens Ravens sends message to Carol City Chiefs

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. – A group of girls wearing shorts carried a real coffin out to a public football field in Miami Gardens.

They paraded it around the field in Miami Carol City Park, as children in their football uniforms watched. They were 5- to 10-year-olds on the sidelines.

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Some mothers and fathers gasped. The park, 3201 NW 185th St., was full of children. And the coffin was a sign from the Miami Gardens Ravens to the Carol City Chiefs. Both teams play in rapper Flo Rida's Florida Youth Football League.

"It was a procession around the field and one of our volunteers put a stop to it," Miami Gardens Parks and Recreation's Starex Smith said.

For about five years, Miami Gardens has had one of the highest violent crime rates in Miami-Dade County. A mom said she worried that "street gang attitude" was coming into a sport that was meant to keep her son from joining gangs.

"Nobody was happy with that at all," said Monica Perry, a volunteer for the Miami Gardens Chiefs.

Miami Gardens Mayor Oliver Gilbert said Wednesday in an e-mail that the city's parks and recreation department was "diligently working to reiterate the appropriate code of conduct to all volunteers."

The coach, who asked the girls to carry the coffin Saturday, was suspended Tuesday, Smith said.

The American Youth Football League vice-president Jim Ross said Tuesday was one of the youth football coaches in both Miami-Dade and Broward counties who stumbled upon the images on social media. He said he was shocked when he saw a picture of the coffin.

"If one of our coaches would have done that, we would have expelled him immediately,"said Ross.

Miami Gardens Youth Sports president Melvin Robinson is the man seen in the picture, a coach said. Florida Youth Football League president Martin Maultsby said the volunteer coach made a mistake.

Maultsby said the coach had seen a coffin used during a high school football game. The coach then replicated the exhibit without consulting with Miami Gardens park's and recreation staff or the league.

"He had an idea," Maultsby said. "It was a bad idea and he knows it."

CORRECTION: An original version of this story attributed Maulsby's statement to Robinson.