Dozens Kneel In ‘Solidarity’ With Youth Football Team During Game

TURTLE CREEK (KDKA) — It was more than just a match up between two good football teams.

Dozens of people came out to stand behind the Woodland Hills youth football team — as they took on Moon Township.

“I came out to show support and solidarity for these courageous young men who are facing so much adversity,” said Shane Freeman.

Coach Marcus Burkly Sr. was glad to see the support for the players, who he says were exposed to a series of racial slurs at their game in Bethel Park earlier this month.  The team and coaches say they heard the remarks after three players opted to kneel during the National Anthem, a growing movement to call attention to systematic racism across the country.

“Sooner or later, we want to get with the Bethel Park organization to get the kids to shake hands and stuff, whatever it may be. Just know that change is coming and this racial divide, it’s got to stop,” Coach Burkley said.

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There was no National Anthem at Sunday night’s game. But, supporters dropped to their knees to let the team know, they weren’t alone – they have community support, and they should be allowed to have opinions.

“They have every right to stand for what they believe in, and we believe in them,” said Shannon Williams.

For it’s part, the Bethel Park Junior Football Board released this statement after an internal investigation:

“Not one individual we spoke with observed, witnessed or can corroborate Woodland Hills’ accusations of racial slurs or discrimination….Moving forward, we will continue with the mission of Bethel Park Junior Football, which is and always has been to promote a fun and safe environment for the kids.”

“There’s no reason for Woodland Hills to have lied.  No reason, and that’s the thing we can’t let go of,” Williams said.

They say if they don’t hear anything from Bethel Park, they’re going to keep the pressure on, and one of the things that’s a big concern, is that Woodland Hills could face Bethel Park again in the near future.

More from Lynne Hayes-Freeland

One Comment

  1. Results of the Parkway League meeting and investigation into the allegations of racial slurs and discrimination against Woodland Hills at our 12 year old BP game. Will be shared with all media outlets. Let’s see who actually airs it:(. Still way too many one sided stories out there.

    Recently, an incident occurred during a 12 year old youth football game between Woodland Hills and Bethel Park, both members of the Parkway Youth Football League (PYFL) 12 year old division.

    As reported, several players for Woodland Hills exercised their right to a peaceful protest by kneeling during the playing of the national anthem. The Woodland Hills coaching staff and multiple fans have made claims that this protest resulted in aggressive and racially charged comments made towards the young players during the anthem, and during game play. Additionally, claims have been made that the referees showed bias against Woodland Hills throughout the game and that Woodland Hills spectators were refused service at the Bethel Park concession stand.

    The PYFL was founded based on the core principal of providing safe and fun game day experience for each player of it’s member organizations. The executive board takes any claim of aggressive and/or racially charged behavior seriously, and in particular those that could impact the players of any game.

    As a start to it’s investigation, the PYFL has had multiple discussions via email, phone and in person meetings held Monday Oct. 17th with members of both organizations including both Woodland Hills and Bethel Park organization Presidents, League representatives, head coaches, and the officials who oversaw the game in question.

    While the investigation is not concluded, the following is an update to each allegation and next steps:

    *Woodland Hills players chose to take a knee during the National Anthem
    This was confirmed and agreed upon by all members. The PYFL has no stance on any players religious, political or personal beliefs.

    *Bethel Park parents / spectators begin yelling at the Woodland Hills players using racially charged hateful comments including the “n” word during the national anthem, and throughout the game.
    The PYFL has requested both organizations to provide any and all videos of the game for its review. Both Bethel Park and Woodland Hills have provided game video, which members of the PYFL executive board has reviewed. Neither tape begins until after the national anthem has been played, however there is no evidence to support the claims of aggressive racially charged behavior. Woodland Hills officials have stated that there is a second video that can possibly show differently. Once provided, the PYFL board will review and provide additional updates at that time.

    *Woodland Hills stated that Bethel Park players were also utilizing racial slurs and aggressive language throughout the game.
    Bethel Park requested specific player numbers prior to the meeting so they can address internally. No numbers were provided, however one player was identified as a potential culprit at the meeting Oct. 17th. Bethel Park to investigate and provide the PYFL with an update. Additionally, in a statement from one of the referees, After a play was over, one of the Bethel Park players came to me and said “number (removed) and number (removed) called us the “N word”. I asked the Bethel Park player are you calling them that? He said no. I addressed the Woodland Hills entire offense about what was said. A player said we are calling each other that. I said if I hear the “N word” I will flag the that team 15 yards for unsportsman like.
    *Woodland Hills stated that Bethel fans were consuming alcohol on “the hill”.
    Bethel Park officials did confirm that they were aware of one fan who had a cooler of beer. The PYFL reiterated to all it’s member organizations that alcohol or drugs of any kind are not permitted at games or practices. As it’s the first infraction made towards Bethel Park a warning is noted. Any additional infractions made towards Bethel Park will include disciplinary action up to and including financial fines.

    *Woodland Hills fans were not provided service at the Bethel Park concession stand.
    Bethel Park outsources it’s concession stand to a third party vendor. The day in question only had 1 game being played, thus the concession stand was never opened. Being it’s last regular season game, the Bethel Park parents traditionally have a cook out for it’s “senior” players and their families celebrating the season. Members of Bethel Park and Woodland Hills agreed that the Woodland hills spectators mistook this cook out for the concession stand, and when told that the food was only for the Bethel Park players and their families misunderstood the context. It was agreed that this could of been avoided with better communication about the concession stand prior to kick off.

    *Woodland Hills felt the game was called unfairly and the referees were biased, favoring Bethel Park.
    The President of the referee chapter that PYFL utilizes has offered to watch the game tape with members of the Woodland Hills board and 12 year old coaching staff and review each call made, as well as those perceived as missed.

    While PYFL continues it’s investigation and pursuit for substantial evidence, the board is drafting a variety of additional requirements in an effort to continue to provide a safe playing environment for each member organization, it’s players and fans. These include:

    1.) Reinforcement of the current requirements that every coach (head and assistant) be required to provide a back ground check administered and reviewed by each member organization, as well as go through the USA Football heads up certifications.

    2.) Issuance of a coaches code of conduct that must be read and signed by every coach in each organization.

    3.) Issuance of a spectator code of conduct that will be issued to each players parents and read at ALL games.

    4.) Reinforcement within each organization that they are responsible for the fans behavior and must police their practices and game day activities vigilantly. Every league representative and/or Director of Football has the responsibility to manage the fans in attendance including the right to pause game play and ask any unsportsmanlike, unruly or disrespectful fan be removed from the premise.

    5.) Confirmation that each organization is responsible for it’s fans and their behavior. This can / will include penalties against the team, financial penalties levied by the league and potential suspension and/or expulsion from the league.

    An additional statement will be issued if and/or when further evidence is received to substantiate a response. All further requests for response, emails demanding additional investigation or communications not providing further evidence will be ignored and should be funneled through the appropriate officers of your local member organization.

    The above statement has been reviewed and approved by the PYFL board.

    The PYFL Executive Board

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