A pair of Chicago prep schools on opposite ends of town are playing ball following a controversial game cancellation that some in the South Side school's community felt was racially motivated.
The baseball team at North Side prep school Walter Payton in Old Town will head to Roseland on Saturday to finally face off against Gwendolyn Brooks College Prep, the Sun Times reports. A truce was apparently brokered when Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett met with Payton’s principal and baseball coach over the cancellation.
Monday night, Mayor Rahm Emanuel attended Brooks' baseball game against South Side rival Morgan Park High School — a move Brooks Principal D'Andre Weaver said helped heal his students' hurt feelings after the Payton cancellation.
"Just his presence here made the community feel like they're somebody," Weaver said according to DNAinfo Chicago. "It made them feel respected and loved."
"I came to show my support," Emanuel said. "These are good kids, and I want everyone to know it."
Ald. Anthony Beale (9th) who helps coach Brooks' Eagles told reporters after Monday's game he "doesn't buy" the claims maintained by Payton administrators and CPS, dismissing the district's response as "damage control."
Payton's cancelation of its game against Brooks on April 27 prompted charges of racism and bigotry, despite the district and both schools principals calling the issue a "misunderstanding."
As CPS officials weighed in, district accounts of what really happened differed from those of both school's varsity coaches who appeared to agree the cancellation was sparked by Payton parents' fears over safety at the South Side school.
Payton head coach William Wittleder told the Sun-Times, “About three, four parents [came] up to me saying they’re not letting their kids go down there," adding, "This is probably one of the most embarrassing moments I’ve had."
"I was totally disgusted," one Brooks parent told the Tribune in a broadcast (embedded). "What message is that giving our kids?"
Brooks College Prep coach Herbert Redmond was concerned the cancellation was racially motivated, according to Fox Chicago. "The parents were in fear of their kids' lives due to [us] being in the heart of the ghetto," Redmond told Fox. "I'm really appalled because this is the nicest facility maybe in the city; we never have any issues up."
By Sunday evening, however, principals at Brooks and Payton were calling the cancellation a "very unfortunate misunderstanding," according to ABC Chicago.
Payton Principal Tim Devine told the Tribune in an email "racist tendencies" were not to blame for the forfeited game. Devine dismissed earlier media reports as "largely inaccurate" and said "The reasons for the cancellation stem from leadership issues within the baseball program."
A Chicago Public School spokesperson said logistical concerns were the real reason behind the day-of cancellation: Payton students supposedly had no bus transportation to Brooks and Payton had too few players to field a team as some were benched for "missing practice for college visits and practice AP tests."
South Side Rev. Michael Pfleger noted that both schools are among the city's most elite, and that the actions of the several Payton parents was “shameful.’’
“If we don’t stand strong against this, then we’ve taught our kids that prejudice and bigotry is okay,’’ Pfleger said according to the Sun-Times.
Brooks coach Redmond told Fox, "We have a team full of black and brown boys and I don't know if that still exists in a lot of parents' heads but evidently it does so we're just a little shocked that it's still here in 2013."
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