During the past several years, football programs at D.C. Public Schools have gone through a construction renaissance. The city dedicated tens of millions of dollars to building first-class stadiums throughout D.C. But many of the programs that use those stadiums are failing – not due to a lack of talent – because forfeits and cancellations are common in the D.C. league. We talk with Washington City Paper’s Dave McKenna about the trend and the role sports play in education reform in the District.

Guests

  • Dave McKenna "Cheap Seats" Columnist, Washington City Paper

Transcript

  • 12:06:40

    MR. KOJO NNAMDIFrom WAMU 88.5, at American University in Washington, welcome to "The Kojo Nnamdi Show," connecting your neighborhood with the world. Later in the broadcast, how American drug policies are sending shockwaves through Jamaica's politics. But, first, how sports reflect on the state of public schools in the nation's capital. On the surface, D.C. Public Schools have created a football paradise.

  • 12:07:16

    MR. KOJO NNAMDIDuring the past several years, the District poured tens of millions of dollars to build first-class stadiums at high schools across D.C. But the human investment in the teams and the children who use these brand-new stadiums hasn't come close to matching the financial. Schools routinely struggle to field eligible players or find doctors to attend games.

  • 12:07:37

    MR. KOJO NNAMDIForfeits are so commonplace that teams from other leagues are backing away from scheduling games with D.C. Public Schools altogether. Meanwhile, the football team enjoying the most success inside the District this season is a charter school in the reverse situation, a team whose access to adequate facilities is so bad that it uses a storage bin for a locker room, but a team which seems to be making up for it with strong coaching and adult organization.

  • 12:08:07

    MR. KOJO NNAMDIJoining us in studio to discuss what all is going on is Dave McKenna. He is the "Cheap Seats" columnist at Washington City Paper. Dave McKenna, good to have you aboard.

  • 12:08:18

    MR. DAVE MCKENNAA pleasure. Thanks for having me.

  • 12:08:19

    NNAMDIYou have always maintained a very low profile despite breaking big stories throughout your career. That was, however, significantly disturbed when Washington Post owner Daniel Snyder sued the City Paper for an article you wrote. Did you regret having that kind of spotlight on yourself?

  • 12:08:39

    MCKENNAIt will take a couple of years to let you know. It was tough at times. It wasn't as fun as it should have been. But it was fun that he finally admitted that everything in the story was right and ran away like he'd been...

  • 12:08:49

    NNAMDIWell...

  • 12:08:50

    MCKENNA...wanting to do for a while.

  • 12:08:52

    NNAMDIYou have been continuing to break the stories that you have always been breaking even as you do on a freelance basis, concert reviews for The Washington Post. I couldn't help be -- but fascinated by...

  • 12:09:03

    MCKENNAYeah.

  • 12:09:03

    NNAMDI...the review you did last night. Who did you go to see?

  • 12:09:06

    MCKENNAEnrique Inglesias.

  • 12:09:07

    NNAMDIAnd it was some kind of concert, less notable for the music than it was for the...

  • 12:09:12

    MCKENNAI saw things...

  • 12:09:12

    NNAMDI...interaction with the audience.

  • 12:09:14

    MCKENNAI've seen 1,000 shows in my time. I saw Led Zeppelin and Lynyrd Skynyrd before the crash. And this one was one of the most memorable shows ever and had nothing to do with music. I saw...

  • 12:09:23

    NNAMDIAnd...

  • 12:09:23

    MCKENNA...bizarre behavior by fans.

  • 12:09:27

    NNAMDIAnd guess you'll just have to read the article to understand this.

  • 12:09:29

    MCKENNAYou want to do a half hour on Enrique? We can -- on what happened?

  • 12:09:33

    NNAMDINo, no. It wouldn't be -- it wouldn't work without him here and the audience and shots. And as a family show, we can't do that here on the air. The FCC wouldn't permit it. We've spent a lot of time during the past few years following the war of words about the fight to reform the District public schools. And so much of it comes down to teachers and administrators trading blows about who's not putting kids first.

  • 12:09:58

    NNAMDIBut you wrote last week that if you really want to see a part of the city's education system where adults are failing kids, you should look at the football programs at D.C. Public Schools. What's going on? Why do you feel it reflects so poorly on the system?

  • 12:10:15

    MCKENNAThere's so many people to blame here. It's like -- I grew up in Falls Church, Va., outside of the city. I've been inside the Beltway my whole life. And when I moved into the city 25 years ago, like, the difference is -- I've always loved high school sports. And the difference is between what the kids are offered in D.C. and what the kids are offered in Falls Church, which is -- I think the border is, like, six miles from the D.C. border.

  • 12:10:39

    MCKENNAIt awed me, like, why do people put up with this? Why do parents put up with a system that treats their kids so second-class, yet -- like, when kids who -- when their kids are rubbing elbows with other kids who have so much more? And, like, why is that? I -- it's a failure at every level, from the parents to the administrators to the federal government for, you know, taking control all those years. I mean, it's a total system failure.

  • 12:11:06

    NNAMDIBut for the past few years, all of the high schools in this town have gotten their stadiums renovated and built up. I jog at Coolidge High School, brand new.

  • 12:11:16

    MCKENNAAmazing. Every stadium...

  • 12:11:17

    NNAMDIRoosevelt.

  • 12:11:17

    MCKENNA...Cardozo -- the football stadium at Cardozo is the most beautiful place to watch a football game in America, almost -- I mean, definitely, in the city. I mean, it sits over the city. It is an amazing -- it looks like a mini Ravens stadium. It is beautiful. And yet they forfeit games 'cause they don't have enough kids to go out for the team.

  • 12:11:31

    MCKENNAHow does that happen? Just in DCPS, the athletic director's job, I think they're going for their fourth one in three years now.

  • 12:11:41

    NNAMDIFourth athletic director in three years.

  • 12:11:42

    MCKENNAFourth athletic director, who is in charge...

  • 12:11:43

    NNAMDICurrent one is Willie Jackson.

  • 12:11:45

    MCKENNAAnd he's billed as a temporary guy. He's been there a while, and I don't know when they're really going to fill it. They...

  • 12:11:49

    NNAMDIHe was a school principal before this.

  • 12:11:51

    MCKENNACorrect, but no -- I mean, sports administrative background. Yet he somehow got this job, and under his reign this year, it's been a total debacle, as we said, a total debacle. Like, why -- I don't -- it makes -- like, Coolidge High School, which is the -- it should be the showcase program of the D.C. schools right now because this should be their year.

  • 12:12:13

    MCKENNAThe Dunbar coach left to take a job in college. Dunbar, historically, has been a powerhouse program. And Coolidge has a woman coach who's...

  • 12:12:24

    NNAMDIFirst ever.

  • 12:12:25

    MCKENNA...and first, you know, first ever -- and thought to be the only varsity high school female coach in America, in the United States currently, and was at -- was on the cover of Parade magazine. And so, like, people are watching. On ESPN last year, people are watching this program. They forfeit their first two games. First, because of an earthquake, allegedly. They say, well, we can't show up 'cause of an earthquake.

  • 12:12:44

    MCKENNAThe earthquake was on Tuesday. Everyone else played. They couldn't play. They said, oh, because of the earthquake. And those -- the game -- that game was scheduled for Friday. Then next week, they forfeit again because we can't get security, and they say -- they give the announcement that they can't get security at 11 a.m. The game is at 7. You know, they have zero concern for the kids, for the families.

  • 12:13:04

    MCKENNAAnd what message does that send to the students, like a second-class school? Like, what do they do right? What...

  • 12:13:10

    NNAMDIThere are other problems, Ballou.

  • 12:13:12

    MCKENNABallou, the coach, Moe Ware, who took them to the Turkey Bowl a few years ago, they had a guy, Marvin Austin, who was a second round pick of the New York Giants this year. Incredible athlete, played for North Carolina, had some NCAA kind of difficulties for about agents and money, but an incredible athlete, an incredible talent. And so Ballou has had a strong program.

  • 12:13:34

    MCKENNAAnd last year, he quit because -- this doesn't happen anywhere else. Twenty-four hours before the championship game, the Turkey Bowl, which is a great event, you know, has a great history, brings out the community. Twenty-four hours before the game, they're tossed out. They had beaten Dunbar in the semifinals.

  • 12:13:48

    NNAMDITraditional powerhouse Dunbar.

  • 12:13:49

    MCKENNACorrect. So it was a big win. And so they -- to qualify for the championship game, and they're thrown out finally (unintelligible) 24 hours before kickoff because they were found to have ineligible players. Like, again, what does that -- what -- it just perpetuates this incompetence, this image of incompetence.

  • 12:14:08

    NNAMDIDunbar, what's going on there?

  • 12:14:10

    MCKENNAWell, Dunbar, they had -- again, coach Jeffries had been there forever. He won -- I think he made the Turkey Bowl 11 years in a row once. He has a huge number of NFL players among his alums, including Vernon Davis, Vontae Davis, his brother.

  • 12:14:28

    NNAMDIVontae Davis, yeah.

  • 12:14:30

    MCKENNAArrelious Benn, Josh Cribs. I mean...

  • 12:14:32

    NNAMDIThese guys are all in the NFL.

  • 12:14:33

    MCKENNAIn the NFL.

  • 12:14:34

    NNAMDICorrect.

  • 12:14:35

    MCKENNAAnd it's a public school in D.C. that should be a shining light, it was an amazing program. He left in the off-season to take a job at New Mexico with a guy, Mike Locksley, who was fired on Saturday. So Jeffries might be available. He might be available here again, but -- and was replaced by -- I believe it was an assistant who was fired after a week because of a fight.

  • 12:14:57

    MCKENNAWell, Dunbar's first week ended with a brawl. Their first game ended in a brawl in Baltimore against Dunbar of Baltimore.

  • 12:15:04

    NNAMDIThey were losing at the time.

  • 12:15:05

    MCKENNAThey were going to lose. It was at the end of the, you know, fourth quarter. They were getting mauled. And after the forfeit, they find ineligible players. And so they fired that coach. So that whole program is thrown into total disarray.

  • 12:15:18

    NNAMDIAnd the number to...

  • 12:15:18

    MCKENNA(unintelligible) so the two programs that anyone would talk about, Coolidge and Dunbar this year, they are just -- and they've -- Coolidge was ordered to forfeit two more games. And I think they have reduced that penalty, which, you know, they keep changing. It was one game, then two games, now back to one.

  • 12:15:32

    MCKENNAAnd so -- but these two programs that should be -- you know, be looked at, that anyone who's paying attention to DCIAA sports would be looking at these two programs. And they're both just total fiascos.

  • 12:15:42

    NNAMDIWe're talking with Dave McKenna. He is the "Cheap Seats" columnist at Washington City Paper. And if you'd like to join the conversation about football in D.C. Public Schools, you can call us at 800-433-8850. Where do you think athletics should fit into the effort to rejuvenate and revitalize the District public school system? How do you think sports can contribute to the formative experiences that kids have in high schools?

  • 12:16:05

    NNAMDI800-433-8850. You can go to our website, kojoshow.org. Ask a question, or make a comment there. Or do it by way of tweet, @kojoshow, or by way of email to kojo@wamu.org. Dave McKenna, we mentioned earlier that the city has poured millions of dollars to upgrade the facilities at public schools. Why, in your view, has the human investment in these football programs dragged behind the financial investment?

  • 12:16:33

    MCKENNAI think it will -- again, I'm not -- I don't follow the top levels of education reform too much, but I did under Michele Rhee because of her botches involving sports. And, I think, the current state of affairs, you've got to blame her for a lot of it. She took a bad situation and made it much, much worse. She had total disdain for athletics.

  • 12:16:54

    MCKENNAShe would not -- there are so many stories about her not even meeting with the guy she hired, Troy Mathieu, who brought -- she brought him in from Louisiana. He was a former athletic director at Grambling and had really good background in Texas high school sports and just gave him no support at all. Like, I remember going to a DCIAA basketball game, a great event also at Coolidge every year, fantastic community event. And Troy is there.

  • 12:17:17

    MCKENNAAnd Michele Rhee didn't even show up. She was out that night at a basketball game, a college basketball game with Kevin Johnson. And she made a lot of errors, too, like showing no regard for athletics and...

  • 12:17:30

    NNAMDIBut she made quite a big deal about making sure the arts came back into public schools because she made the argument, and most people apparently agreed with it, that it helps kids to be more rounded. And, I guess, the same argument can be made for athletics. What do you think accounted for her lack of interest in that arena? And has current schools chancellor Kaya Henderson showed any more interest?

  • 12:17:53

    MCKENNAAgain, all I can -- with Kaya Henderson, all I can base it on is the way how horribly things have gone this year while she's in charge. And her putting in a guy who -- you know, Willie Jackson, who doesn't return phone calls from the media, he's very -- and I've heard from parents who say he doesn't return calls from parents, and he's very standoffish. He's not helped me at all.

  • 12:18:14

    MCKENNAFinally, I left, like, dozens of messages with him, emails and calls over a month. And he finally -- and, finally, he picked up the phone one day, and I started, you know, asking questions. He says, I don't have permission to talk. And so, you know -- well, he's a public official. And Michele Rhee's office used to do the same thing with -- you know, she wouldn't -- just stonewalling, like, these people have to realize they have to be accountable. They have to talk to the public.

  • 12:18:35

    NNAMDIWell, we asked DCPS to participate in today's discussion. And guess what?

  • 12:18:40

    NNAMDIThanks, but no thanks is the response that we got.

  • 12:18:43

    MCKENNAWell, that's, like, three more words than they usually give. You know, they usually don't say -- they don't return your calls.

  • 12:18:48

    NNAMDIOh, they just declined to participate.

  • 12:18:50

    MCKENNAThat's four more words, excuse me.

  • 12:18:51

    NNAMDI800-433-8850. Do you have a child playing sports in D.C. Public Schools right now? How do you think the human investment that the city is putting into athletic programs matches up to the financial investment they've made in improving facilities? 800-433-8850 is the number to call. Let me go Cassandra in Silver Spring, Md. Cassandra, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:19:17

    CASSANDRAHi. Thanks a lot. I'm wondering if the decline in the human investment in these programs could be related to an increase in the number of female-headed households or the rate of unemployment or even the cost of fees for participation, not to mention the fear of injury for these young people.

  • 12:19:37

    NNAMDII don't know if Dave McKenna has researched any of those.

  • 12:19:41

    CASSANDRAWell, I think it might be worth looking into.

  • 12:19:43

    MCKENNAWell, the fees -- I don't believe there are fees. In the surrounding counties, that is an issue, and I think that will be an issue in years. It really bugs me when they charge, you know, a kid to play a sport, play football or something. That just seems bizarre. And I don't know that -- is Montgomery County -- are they doing that right now, or Silver Spring, wherever you are, whichever side?

  • 12:20:02

    CASSANDRAWell, they are -- I do believe that they are charging in the area. I can't say for certain, but I've heard discussions about it. And I do believe that's happening now.

  • 12:20:10

    MCKENNAI mean, that comes up whenever -- like, I know in Fairfax, they were talking that, but I believe it was ultimately thrown out. It's just a bad idea. And, again, I thought everything would change, you know, as Kojo said, about the facilities. When I saw -- I live near Roosevelt High School.

  • 12:20:26

    MCKENNAAnd when I saw that field going in, I'm going, finally, you know, finally things -- these kids are going to get -- 'cause I've been following the Spingarn program for years and years and the stuff that their coaches had to put up with in those kids. And, again, where I grew up, in Fairfax County, people would be in jail. They would be out of a job first and probably in jail if they had such disdain for the children.

  • 12:20:45

    NNAMDIThank you very much for your call, Cassandra. But, Dave McKenna, what would you say to the person who hears you lamenting the state of public school football and says, who cares, so long as they stay focused on the system's academic performance?

  • 12:20:56

    MCKENNAWell, I'd say they should go to a high school and hang out for a while and see what kids do, you know, in -- what -- kids with free time. There was a triple shooting in Petworth last night that I heard. And I saw, you know, people running on the way. I'm not a good judge of age, but I think they were about high school age.

  • 12:21:12

    MCKENNAAnd they were incredibly fit. Like, I was -- just, like, two -- the two kids who I saw, who the police apprehended, well, one was chased, and the other one was apprehended. Like, I'm thinking those, you know -- I'd want that guy on my football team, you know? And if he was practicing football, he wouldn't have been out, you know, shooting -- and, you know, I don't mean to be flip about this.

  • 12:21:31

    MCKENNA'Cause I really -- it bothers me so much that football -- you bring up the specter of injury, and I believe that will harm programs at schools like Sidwell Friends. I don't believe it'll harm programs at Spingarn for quite some time.

  • 12:21:48

    NNAMDIWhat do you mean by that?

  • 12:21:49

    MCKENNAI mean, the parents are -- who are worried about concussions and stuff like that are -- it seems to be a -- I don't hear that talk in -- at public high schools in D.C. It seems to be kind of a -- I think football is headed toward a -- perhaps, a role in society that boxing had years ago. It's like the -- it's going to be a lower blue collar -- much more of a blue collar sport.

  • 12:22:14

    NNAMDIGot to take a short break. When we come back, we'll continue our conversation with Dave McKenna. He's the "Cheap Seats" columnist at Washington City Paper on sports in general, but football in particular at D.C. Public Schools. 800-433-8850 is the number to call. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.

  • 12:24:09

    NNAMDIWelcome back to our conversation with Dave McKenna. He's the "Cheap Seats" columnist at Washington City Paper, and he has been writing about the state of sports in general, but football in particular at D.C. Public Schools. And the state of football in D.C. Public Schools is not good, Dave McKenna. But if you go to some of those same school stadiums on a Saturday, you see some of the most well-organized competitive youth football games.

  • 12:24:34

    NNAMDIYou can find 8- and 9-year-old kids surrounded by cheering adults and energetic coaches. That's the Pop Warner league. Where does all that energy come -- go when they get to high school?

  • 12:24:46

    MCKENNAAgain, you -- I -- you have to give the city credit for building these facilities. It has paid off. You know, I don't know if can you put a dollar figure on it, but you go to -- like you said, go to these, like, eight stadiums, any of eight stadiums on a Saturday, and you have, like, this go-go music blare. And there's, literally, 1,000 people in the stands, and it goes on for 12 hours, these Pop Warner league games, every-way class.

  • 12:25:09

    MCKENNAAnd there -- it's a fabulous way to spend the day to just observe the community, get in the community, and there's cookouts going. It's a great event. And the teams -- the level of play is amazing. Like, you have 12-year-olds wearing the wrist bands that Donovan McNabb wouldn't wear to read their plays and call plays at the line of scrimmage and call audibles. It is an amazing event. And they're very good.

  • 12:25:29

    MCKENNAThe Pop Warner teams here have won national championships, like, every year for the past several years. And so, like, where do these -- I guess, you know, these kids are not going to DCIAA schools to play, I guess. They're going to...

  • 12:25:40

    NNAMDI'Cause that -- some energy somehow disappears with the lack of human investment at the high school level. Let's see what some of our listeners have to say. We'll talk with Chase in Hagerstown, Md., first. Chase, you're on the air. Go ahead, please. Hi, Chase. Are you there?

  • 12:25:55

    CHASEHigh school -- yeah, can you hear me?

  • 12:25:56

    NNAMDIWe can, yes.

  • 12:25:58

    CHASEOkay. Good. I went to a high school in Western Maryland, you know, state champion football team. And, you know, textbooks were 12 years old. You had the football players, a handful of people who are actually capable of -- or allowed to participate, had brand-new helmets, pads. You know, they got away with anything, treated people like crap.

  • 12:26:17

    CHASEAnd I don't see why football, you know, is -- I think it's unnecessary. I think it's a waste of money and time. So judging a school by its football team is ridiculous. I mean, no one -- like, there's kids in our graduating class that couldn't even read. So I just wanted to say that just seems kind of (unintelligible).

  • 12:26:34

    NNAMDIHere's Dave McKenna.

  • 12:26:35

    MCKENNAWhat program in the school do you think is valid...

  • 12:26:39

    NNAMDIOutside of academics.

  • 12:26:40

    MCKENNA...outside of the academic programs?

  • 12:26:43

    CHASEWhat's that?

  • 12:26:44

    MCKENNAWhat program outside of the academic programs do you think is a valid use of resources?

  • 12:26:50

    CHASEWell, I mean, considering we didn't even science labs that were functional, and, you know, football teams getting -- whatever...

  • 12:26:57

    MCKENNASo your school was a lousy school, is what you're saying? And lousy...

  • 12:27:01

    CHASEWell, yeah, well, okay, that's why. It has nothing to do with the fact that all the money was blown on the football team. Anyway, I'm not trying to get -- I'm just trying to say it just seems a silly way of judging a school...

  • 12:27:12

    NNAMDIWell, Dave McKenna, can we walk and chew gum at the same time?

  • 12:27:15

    MCKENNAYeah, I mean, I think a good athletic program, a well-run athletic program is a symptom of a well-run school and a well-run school system. And I think a poorly run athletic program is a symptom of the opposite.

  • 12:27:30

    NNAMDIOkay. Thank you very much for your call, Chase. We move on to Dave in Falls Church, Va. Dave, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:27:39

    MR. DAVE SMITHYes. I think some of the callers and people who disconnect football with importance need to only step back a little bit in time and realize that football is a sport that teaches leadership. Leadership is something that is lacking in our community. Some of our best community leaders have come through athletic programs. I'm a product of public schools, New York City, football, the NFL. I parlayed a football background for a college education.

  • 12:28:19

    MR. DAVE SMITHWhen I got into the NFL, yes, I found players that could not read or write. Many of the players who were there were elite players in their respective schools. But there is responsibility of coaches to be surrogate fathers. Of which a program in D.C. or any other program, facilities mean nothing if the coaches don't understand their role.

  • 12:28:46

    NNAMDIDave, what's your last name? And when did you play in the NFL?

  • 12:28:49

    SMITHMy name is Dave Smith. I played with the Pittsburgh Steelers. In the '60s and '70s, black players had a real difficult time. If you were outspoken and didn't like it and you were too bright or intelligent, most coaches didn't like you. But I happened to have been the beneficiary of a coach who was the first coach to integrate a suburban football team in 1954 in Braddock, Pa.

  • 12:29:17

    SMITHAnd today, this coach is still trying to teach other coaches to reduce concussions by eliminating hitting in practice. The ignorance that is out there today -- you look at someone like Byron "Whizzer" White, Supreme Court Justice, he plays football. Look at headhunters that are out there now. They're looking for people who have military or football background.

  • 12:29:47

    NNAMDIDave, we're running out of time, so I do have to move on. But the name Paul Robeson, of course, always pops to mind.

  • 12:29:52

    MCKENNAWell, I agree with you, Dave. I think football is -- it can, you know -- like, the last caller from Hagerstown had -- the football players weren't real nice in his school. And I'm sure that's true, and I'm sure that that happens occasionally. But football can be an incredible savior for a lot of kids.

  • 12:30:09

    NNAMDII guess a lot of callers are, from what I'm seeing, are getting the impression that why this is happening is because of a lack of available financial resources. That does not seem to the case.

  • 12:30:22

    MCKENNAWell, available -- where they're steered, I believe, that's probably true. I mean, they -- are the resources available here? I don't know. I think some people are getting paid.

  • 12:30:33

    NNAMDIWhat's the point of building the new stadiums the way they've built them if not for the purpose of encouraging participation in the sports?

  • 12:30:40

    MCKENNAWell, I believe the timing, you know -- those projects were probably commissioned in 2006 or 2007 when things were a little less stark. The fiscal picture here was a little rosier. But still, this -- it's not -- there does need to be more money spent on coaches. D.C. does not pay assistant coaches anything, and that causes all sorts of problems.

  • 12:31:02

    NNAMDIBut here's the part where people are going to say, money, shmoney. D.C. Public Schools may be struggling this year, but one of the District's charter schools has put together one of the most successful football programs in the area, even though their facilities are so bad. They're using a storage bin for a locker room. What's going on at Friendship Collegiate?

  • 12:31:22

    MCKENNAIn my job, I get to do a lot of stuff that -- at City Paper, they gave me the freedom to write about pretty much whatever I wanted. And I get to occasionally find stories that just make me -- just I love to do. And the one with the Friendship showing up at this little plot of dirt in Northeast Washington, where this industrial storage facility -- it's just like a huge dumpster.

  • 12:31:45

    MCKENNAThese kids are coming out -- that's what they train. They just plopped it on this plot of dirt, and that's where they practice. And that's where they change their clothes 'cause their school doesn't have a locker room big enough for everybody. And these guys are good.

  • 12:31:57

    MCKENNAI mean, they -- and they've built a program -- Coach Aazar Abdul-Rahim, he has built a program there, very, very smart leader, you know, with help from the administration, where they promote the ability of high school athletes to get scholarships. That's the main draw there. They had 14 kids get college scholarships from the football program last year.

  • 12:32:19

    MCKENNAAnd that's one thing that people don't talk enough about in D.C., about the lack of sports programs here. That's taking away the chance to get college scholarships, athletic scholarships. And there is a -- there are a ton of them, especially with Title IX. Women's programs are booming everywhere, women college athletes, so, you know, scholarships available to them are everywhere.

  • 12:32:43

    MCKENNAAnd the D.C. kids don't even have a chance. You go to these schools like Roosevelt, which has a woman's -- a woman football coach. And Michelle Rhee was very big to promote that, and that's a fine touch. But there are no sports available for the kids. There's no -- like, there's no girls' softball, there's no girls' soccer, you know, all these programs where scholarships are available.

  • 12:33:00

    MCKENNAThe -- if you go to Coolidge, you can watch a woman football coach, but you can't watch a woman softball player or a girl soccer player. And these kids are not going to get scholarships, and that's criminal.

  • 12:33:11

    NNAMDIBut when you talk about Friendship Collegiate -- on the one hand, you have Roosevelt Senior High School, new stadium as you pointed out, couldn't dress 18 eligible players for their first game of the season, their season opener.

  • 12:33:25

    MCKENNARight.

  • 12:33:25

    NNAMDIAnd then you go over to Friendship Collegiate, and you see where Abdul-Rahim, in a piece that you wrote earlier this year, estimated that he's going to start the season with about 120 players eligible for freshman JV and varsity team.

  • 12:33:38

    MCKENNARight. Well, if you're a parent of a good athlete, you know, and you have a chance. And he -- think he can play football, are going to go to the school that just gave 14 scholarships out? Or are you going to go to Spingarn where there's -- where five kids show up for first day of practice, and there's not even enough -- like, the coach had one piece of equipment, a seven-man blocking sled.

  • 12:33:59

    MCKENNAAnd he didn't have enough guys to block -- to put on the seven-man sled. It's -- so it's an amazing phenomenon. It's going to happen where these charter schools -- a lot of people predict --will take over the role of sports that DCIAA now has. They will just totally supersede.

  • 12:34:17

    NNAMDIHere is Sharon in Laurel, Md. Sharon, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:34:22

    SHARONThank you. I just wanted to say -- excuse me, I had a daughter that started playing basketball in Montgomery County Public Schools, and she was having a great time. She was very athletic and academic. And she, at some point, got so disgusted, you know, with the programs in Montgomery County that she begged me to move her to a D.C. school. She's like, ma, can we move to D.C.?

  • 12:34:49

    SHARONYou know, I have friends that are playing sports there, and they're really happy. And she was talking to all of her friends in D.C. Anyway, I got the opportunity to do that. I got her in a D.C. public school. She started playing basketball. I was a personal trainer at the time. I volunteered to train the kids. You know, I would take the girls out on the field, exercise with them, teach them to hydrate themselves before they started games.

  • 12:35:15

    SHARONI would be very motivational for them because I think girls need a lot of that, you know, from someone. And I'm telling you, parents -- I heard Dave McKenna said something at the beginning about why would parents accept certain things. I want to ask the same question. A lot of those parents are judgmental. They're not really looking at the big picture. Some of them are just, like, in their own world. They're not paying attention to their kids.

  • 12:35:44

    SHARONAnd I can't tell them what they're missing. Your kids are the most important things. You know, my daughter went through the school system. I remember one time she came home crying. She had six As and one C-minus. All her teachers had recognized that she was very -- she was brilliant. She was engaged. She was doing what she was supposed to do, except this one teacher who was so jaded and bitter that she gave my daughter the lowest grade.

  • 12:36:13

    SHARONI went to school the next day with my daughter and confronted this teacher. And she went -- I showed her the report card with all those As. She could not say anything. She just looked at me and was stunned (unintelligible)...

  • 12:36:22

    NNAMDIYour point, Sharon, is that parent needs -- parents need to be engaged if they feel that their kids are being denied, whether the academic aspects of their education or the health and sporting aspects of their education.

  • 12:36:35

    MCKENNAAnd, Sharon, if you moved from Montgomery County to D.C. Public Schools for the sports programs available to women or to girls, you're alone. The programs -- to compare them is ridiculous. Like, the average public school in Montgomery County probably has 28 sports. And, you know, -- Cardozo, or -- and, you know, half of them are women. Or maybe more than 28 sports.

  • 12:37:03

    MCKENNAThat's, like, the minimal. And the average program in D.C. would have half that. It's -- there are no offerings for -- if your daughter played basketball, unless she went to, like, H. D. Woodson or Anacostia a couple of years ago, there really wasn't any women's program worth talking about.

  • 12:37:21

    NNAMDIThank you very much for the -- for your call because it allows me to go to Molly, who raises issues along that line, in Washington. Molly, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:37:29

    MOLLYHi, Kojo. I was a female college athlete. And I played sports all growing up, and it did an enormous amount for my confidence. And I think it really helped me be who I am, and I'm really thankful for that. And, I guess, my question is if -- and your guest alluded to the fact that there are not women's sports in D.C.

  • 12:37:50

    MOLLYSo, I guess, my question is, if they're spending all this money on the men's football teams, why aren't they spending the money on female sports teams?

  • 12:37:59

    MCKENNAThat's a great question. Yet while spending the money on the women's football -- excuse me, the men's football stadium, that provided a venue for women to play soccer also. That same field can be used by the community, as we talked about for youth...

  • 12:38:13

    NNAMDIAnd is every Sunday.

  • 12:38:14

    MCKENNAYeah. Youth football games and also for the soccer teams and, in some cases, baseball teams, but -- so it does -- it is not mutually exclusive. That benefits women soccer programs also. It should have. Yet there are now -- last time I checked, there were four women's soccer -- girl's soccer programs in D.C. Public Schools, and only two of them were real. The other two were just kind of phony with no coaches.

  • 12:38:38

    NNAMDIMolly, thank you very much for your call. We got this tweet from debbiz, (sp?) "I'm not sure if you've already clarified, but Fairfax County Public Schools do charge a $100 fee for participation in a high school sport." And we checked up Dave Smith, who called us, is a former wide receiver in the NFL, drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the eighth round of the 1970 NFL Draft, played his college football at Indiana and at Waynesburg.

  • 12:39:05

    NNAMDIDave Smith, thank you so much for calling in.

  • 12:39:07

    MCKENNAAnd thanks for that clarification about the fee. I did not -- I remember when it was debated in Fairfax and Loudoun. I did not know they passed that. If it's mandatory for -- to play football, you know, that's -- that bothers me.

  • 12:39:20

    NNAMDIWhat do you think D.C. Public Schools need to do to put their athletic programs on a better path? Do you feel this is a decline that can be reversed?

  • 12:39:28

    MCKENNAWell, that -- wow. That...

  • 12:39:30

    MCKENNAI mean, obviously, it can be reversed. It would take -- but it's a big deal. It's ingrained. Things went from bad to worse, as I said, in the last few years. I thought the stadium's situation would change it. It would take a lot. It would take -- from the -- it would Kaya Henderson to talk about it. It would take her to come talk about sports, instead of ignoring it like Michelle Rhee did.

  • 12:39:52

    MCKENNAIt has to be -- if there's accountability, it will change. There is no accountability now.

  • 12:39:58

    NNAMDIWell, the last time she was on this broadcast, she talked about it. But that was before we were familiar with all of the things that your piece on high school football said. So when she comes back, we'll have the opportunity to raise that issue with her. Dave McKenna, thank you for joining us.

  • 12:40:11

    MCKENNAThank you.

  • 12:40:12

    NNAMDIDave is the "Cheap Seats" columnist at Washington City Paper. He also does freelance concept reviews for The Washington Post. We're going to take a short break. When we come back, how American drug policies are sending shockwaves to the politics of Jamaica. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.

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