JEANNETTE (KDKA) — Jeannette High School plays Clairton High School for the Class A WPIAL Championship title on Saturday at Heinz Field.
But one of the Jeannette starters may be sitting the game out, through no fault of his own.
“I love football, it teaches you about work and family, and I got to be there for my team this weekend, it’s a big game,” Ryan Swinton says.
Swinton, 16, is caught in the middle of a custody dispute.
He’s now living with his mother in Jeannette, while his dad, former NFL player Reggie Swinton, lives in Little Rock, Arkansas.
The elder Swinton has threatened to sue Jeannette if his son plays and gets hurt.
Faced with that threat, the team’s coach, Roy Hall, had the teenager benched for a game last weekend.
Hall says he talked to Swinton in Little Rock on the phone to try to persuade him to change his mind, but he was unsuccessful.
Hall told KDKA-TV’s Ralph Iannotti that the 16-year-old high school junior plays both offense and defense on the team.
Hall said what’s happening, “is an injustice, it’s un-American.”
Swinton’s mother, Kendra Bagsby, said even though his father officially has legal custody of her son, Ryan has been back and forth. Something transpired between Swinton and his dad and he does not want to go back to Arkansas.
Bagsby says she is all for her son playing this weekend.
“Why deny my son this? It’s punitive,” she said.