All About Politics: Turkey Bowl Suspensions

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H.D. Woodson High School. Courtesy Cox Graae + Spack.

Unfair and Wrong

The 48th annual Turkey Bowl was played on Thanksgiving morning, Nov. 23. Ballou High School beat H.D. Woodson High School by a score of 21 to 14. But what happened before the game was a real travesty and every D.C. resident who cares about the youth of this city should know exactly what occurred.

In the very last regular-season football game, there was an incident which marred the game between Woodson and Eastern — a play during which the teams fought each other and disrupted the game.

A decision was made to suspend 18 players. This was particularly injurious to Woodson. They were slated to play for the city’s football championship (the Turkey Bowl).

Their star quarterback and running back were two of the players that were suspended. Thus, they would not be allowed to play in the championship game. Both were seniors.

Who actually made the decision is both unclear and made deliberately confusing by school authorities. I asked the Public Schools Chancellor Antwan Wilson why he made the decision to suspend. He told me he did not. He said the decision was “made by the DCIAA.”

The DCIAA stands for the District of Columbia Interscholastic Athletic Association. I then asked the executive director of athletics, Diana Parente. She would not answer any questions and said I had to talk to the press secretary to the chancellor, Kristina Saccone.

There was an appeal process for the 18 student athletes suspended. When I asked Wilson about the composition of the appeal board, he said there were “three people.” When I asked their names, he responded, “I won’t give them.”

Press Secretary Saccone later informed me that the appeals board includes “two deputy chancellors and the chief of secondary schools.”

Two of the students suspended hired an attorney, Stanley Foshee. Foshee represented the two students before the appeals board.

The hearing, Foshee told me, lasted a brief 15 minutes. The students suspended were not in attendance. The hearing was conducted at the main headquarters of the public schools. Foshee said that if the suspended students attempted to attend, they would be held for “truancy.”

This appeals board hearing was a sham. The appeals board just rubber-stamped the decision made by Chancellor Antwan Wilson. To add insult to injury, the suspended Woodson students were not permitted to even attend the Turkey Bowl catered luncheon, held at Capital One Arena.

Ward 7 Council member Vince Gray and Ward 2 Council member Jack Evans were outraged by the decision.

Gray wrote a very strong and persuasive letter to Wilson decrying the “unfair and unequitable” treatment. Evans called Wilson and told him how upset he was concerning the “unfairness” of the decision, also proposing alternatives.

Both Council members stated that depriving the Woodson players the opportunity to play in the city championship game was totally “unfair and wrong,” especially those who were seniors.

The supposed appeals board ruled against Foshee’s two Woodson student athletes. (One student represented by another lawyer was allowed to play.)

The entire process reflects very poorly on the new chancellor. Ironically, the very same week there was a story in the Washington Post’s Metro section about Wilson and his past tenure as head of the Oakland, California, school system.

The story related his use of high-priced consultants and driving the school budget into fiscal crisis. Wilson should be watched closely.

He sure has not got off to a good start. This first major decision was very bad and said volumes about who he is.

Note: This story updates an earlier story by Mark Plotkin available here.

Political analyst and Georgetowner columnist Mark Plotkin is a contributor to the BBC on American politics and a contributor to thehill.com. Reach him at markplotkindc@gmail.com.

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