Concerned parents force cancellation of baseball game
CHICAGO (NBC) -- Play ball!
A Chicago Public Schools official said late Monday that last weekend's forfeited game between Walter Payton College Prep and Gwendolyn Brooks College Prep had been rescheduled.
The teams will now face each other on Saturday, May 4 at Brooks.
Saturday's game was allegedly canceled over safety concerns from parents. CPS officials deny that, saying the reason the north side school (Payton) had to cancel the boy's baseball game against the south side school (Brooks) had nothing to with race or fear of violence.
But Brooks' coach, Herbert Redmond, says he was specifically told by Payton's coach, William Wittleder, that the reason his team didn't make the trip was because some parents were worried about the late weekend game in the Roseland neighborhood.
"[Wittleder] was really at a loss for words. He was quite shook up about it," Redmond said. "They were in fear of their kids getting shot in a drive-by shooting."
Redmond says his team deserves an apology.
Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett said she met with the principals of both schools, Timothy Devine of Payton and D'Andre Weaver of Brooks, to get details on what happened and to find ways to make sure a similar incident doesn't happen again.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Monday evening attended a baseball game at Brooks to show his support for the school and its students.
Devine and Weaver released a joint statement Sunday calling the incident a "misunderstanding," and asking everyone involved to "move past this and allow our student athletes to focus on their futures."
NBC Chicago obtained a copy of an email Devine sent to students Monday morning blaming the cancellation on the "poor communication by the coach to our baseball parents about the date and time of the game," and also stating the cancellation had nothing to do with "race or purported violence in the Roseland community."
CPS officials also issued a statement offering a number of reasons why the game was canceled, including:
-- The visiting coach had only informed the team and parents that this game was on the schedule last Wednesday.
-- The coach emailed parents saying a bus would be provided by the school, however the request was not made and students were left without transportation.
-- Some players were taking practice Advance Placement exams on Saturday.
-- The visiting team was short-handed because some players were ineligible to play due to missing practice in order to make college visits and taking practice AP exams earlier in the week.
What's still not clear, is whether Payton's coach (Wittleder) was not telling the truth about the parents' not wanting their kids to travel to the South Side or if Brooks' coach (Redmond) is lying about the reason he was given for the game cancellation.
"It's really shocking that a high school team would call and cancel a game due to fear of their children being hurt or harmed or killed on the South Side," Redmond told NBC 5 before a Sunday home game against Jones Prep -- a North Side school close to Payton Prep.
Jones Prep's coach said "there was no way we weren't coming" to Sunday's game, and the father of one of his players said he's never had any safety concerns traveling to the South Side for games.
Alderman Anthony Beale, a coaching assistant for Brooks, echoed those sentiments.
"We're just trying to let everyone know that we're just like everyone else, and we're trying to get rid of that stigma that's attached to our community," Beale said.
CPS officials said the makeup game will be played either this coming Saturday at the South Side school, or the Saturday after.