Parents from a Reisterstown youth football organization say six teams have been disqualified from a Carroll County football league just before the start of the playoffs, alleging racism may be the reason. In a statement, Carroll County Youth Football and Cheerleading League officials said it was due to “several behavioral concerns.”
The Reisterstown Mustangs Youth Football organization said the decision was made without warning, and with no reason given — disciplinary or otherwise — outside of Reistertown's probationary status as a new member of the league. Approximately 150 student athletes, between the ages of 5-13, have participated the program.
“It was devastating,” said Kristina Ramsey-Allen, who has two sons playing on Reisterstown teams. “It was devastating for coaches, but more so the kids. The kids don’t understand it, they still don’t understand it. We tried to explain it, but what is there to explain? We haven’t even been given a reason to explain to them.”
In a letter posted Oct. 28 to the official Carroll County Youth Football and Cheerleading League Facebook page, it states the Reisterstown Mustangs are "no longer a probationary member of the CCYFCL and are excluded from all postseason activities ... ." A unanimous vote taken by the Board of Directors, composed of 10 programs in the league led to the decision.
Marquita M. Melvin, the president of Reisterstown Mustangs Youth Football, wrote in a email to the CCYFCL, "This was done without citing any reasons, most likely because the reasons are not politically correct. Therefore we will say to you what our families have been saying to us all season, which is that CCYFCL is a “good old boy” network which only tolerates a majority African-American youth football organization as long as we know our place and don’t have too much success."
The message on the league’s Facebook page states "We are proud of the diversity across our organization and the value that each and every player and coach regardless of gender, age, or ethnicity brings to the CCYFCL."
"We have an undefeated team that is barred from participating in post-season play because of the underhanded and unethical backroom move of an organization that did not have the integrity to meet with us face to face, or cite any rule that was broken, to the extent that you would punish innocent young children for it. Perhaps we would have fared better had we had fights on the field, coaches and players ejected, purposely given players concussions, had unruly parents, or any of the other behaviors that you tolerate from your other programs and your own leadership,” Melvin wrote in response to the letter.
In a statement to the media, the CCYFCL leadership said the "Reisterstown program was admitted to the league on a probationary basis with a decision regarding their ongoing status to be made by members at the conclusion of the season." It goes on to cite "several behavioral concerns involving this program during the season and tension related to how these occurrences were handled has been rising. Emotions tend to run high during playoffs, therefore, the league elected not to risk the safety of the participants and in an attempt to promote a safe conclusion to the season, the league’s programs voted to remove the Reisterstown program at the end of the regular season and prior to the playoffs."
Reisterstown's organization noted it incurred only one player ejection and suspension, and no parent or coach suspensions over the course of the season. "The incident cited was a football play in nature and it is worth noting that the Reisterstown player was the only league player to serve a 2 game suspension all season," according to a post on the Reisterstown Mustangs Facebook page. Two other member organizations have had as many as three separate incidents leading to ejection and suspension, according to the Reisterstown group.
“I sit through games … I have no idea what these people are referring to when they say ‘behavioral concerns,’” Ramsey-Allen said. “Nothing has been written, documented, et cetera. Our kids don’t understand that.
“They’re crying, they’re upset. These kids go to the Super Bowl; they’re not used to this.”
The Carroll County Youth Football and Cheerleading League includes teams from three counties — five from Carroll, three from Montgomery and two from Baltimore, according to an email from Carroll County Department of Recreation and Parks Director Jeff Degitz. The department sponsors recreation councils, but does not operate or sponsor the league, according to Degitz.
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Carroll County Recreation and Parks was informed of the league’s decision Oct. 26, however, the department did not participate in the decision-making process, according to a statement from county government.