The Detroit Public Schools dropped the ball.
There was an opportunity for a stern lesson on the merits of restraint. There was a chance to reach impressionable teenaged boys too often motivated by false machismo.
The Public School League initially banished top-ranked King from the city football championship Friday night for its participation in a postgame melee last week against Cody. The action, handed down by PSL athletic director Alvin Ward, was extreme, offering collective consequences for individual transgressions. But it was the right call. More importantly, it was the right lesson.
But the DPS caved Tuesday, failing miserably in its primary objective of molding better, more responsible, more mentally disciplined young people.
DPS emergency manager Darnell Earley overruled the King forfeiture, reinstating the Crusaders, who are 8-0 and ranked No. 1 in Division 2, into the PSL Division 1 championship game against Cass Tech at 7 p.m. Friday at Ford Field.
King, Cass Tech will play for PSL title, after all
Earley blew it.
And we constantly complain why young African-American men in our large urban cities can so easily justify violent retaliation — and how the few talented enough to create larger opportunities through athletic prowess believe those skills should protect them from the rules of respectful behavior that govern everybody else.
Bad decisions like Earley’s are one reason nobody ever learns anything and the cycle of dysfunction continues.
Doesn’t that basically define the Detroit school system for the last half century?
According to eyewitnesses, a Cody player sucker-punched a King football player following their semifinal game last Friday during the postgame handshake. Fox 2 showed a video of the skirmish Tuesday evening, and it clearly ballooned into an ugly fight that stretched across the field at Collegiate Prep-Northwestern High. It didn’t subside until police dispersed the crowd with pepper spray.
Ward called the King retaliation “an overreaction,” telling the Free Press on Monday “it wasn’t just a little scuffle. It was serious. … It didn’t end and that was the part that was ugly. Somebody could’ve gotten seriously hurt.”
Watch the Detroit King vs. Cody brawl unfold
Ward was right. It was an overreaction. The public outcry in the aftermath of the fight was that the King football player was “attacked” and the King team’s reaction was “self-defense.”
But somebody needs to explain how one football player in full uniform sucker-punching another football player in full uniform amounts to a serious threat to personal safety considering all the body armor. This had nothing to do with self-defense. It was about the archaic “street code” of answering disrespect with a fist, and King foolishly took the bait.
Why should the players be rewarded for their stupidity?
And doesn’t that also wrongly teach them that any violent response can be justified with the third-grade finger-pointing reaction of “well, HE started it.”
Earley said in a statement Tuesday that the DPS was “identifying the aggressors from both teams who initiated the fight” and that King players would be suspended for the championship game, while Cody players would be suspended for the first game next season. Earley also said in the statement that players from both schools would be required to participate in the district’s Restorative Practices behavior intervention and perform a “substantial” amount of community service.
But that’s laughable.
Do you know how insipid that sounds within the context of what happened?
This ugly episode provided another example of how some young athletes don’t understand a sense of community. That requires an individual appreciating that there’s something bigger and more important than himself. One person’s mistake can have far-reaching consequences. And that was the basis of the PSL’s initial verdict in punishing the entire King team. Even those who did nothing — the greater community, in this respect — paid a price. That would have best served the community.
King barred from PSL title game: ‘This is craziness’
When reached Wednesday afternoon, Earley’s office stood by Tuesday’s statement.
“This is an opportunity for a teachable moment that I believe can be helpful in dealing with the biggest problem of violence in our community,” Earley said in the statement, “and the responsibility our young people share in working toward a better school environment and climate.”
Instead, the Detroit Public Schools appeared to have focused more on a different bottom line — the thousands in rent dollars to Ford Field the school system potentially risked losing if there wasn’t a championship game Friday night pitting the PSL’s two best football programs — the two PSL programs that have produced the most high-level college football recruits over the last 10 years.
Moments like these make you ask once again: Where exactly are the supposedly more responsible adults?