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Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Temple recruit blocked from playing for high school because he’s homeless?

A high school football player who says he has a scholarship offer from Temple University was supposed to give Temple coaches a chance to watch him more closely on Saturday, but he ended up not being allowed to play. Why? Because he’s homeless, apparently.

Sam Ford of ABC 7 spoke with 18-year-old Jamal Speaks, and the Ballou-STAY Opportunity Academy senior said he was blocked from playing on Saturday after school principal Willie Jackson told the team’s coach Speaks is not eligible. Speaks’ teammates tried to protest and delayed the game 45 minutes, but Jackson would not budge.

“I’m being told I can’t play by the principal,” Speaks said. “I don’t know why he telling me I can’t play.”

Speaks, who says he has no family support, played for the Ballou varsity team as a sophomore and freshman. He has since been homeless in Washington, D.C., and sleeping on friends’ coaches. Officials in D.C. say he is eligible to play for any school despite his living situation and city councilmember Trayon White issued a statement on the subject.

“When asked about the circumstances surrounding his decision, Principal Jackson communicated to Councilmember Trayon White that he did not want any negative publicity,” the statement read. “In response, the community was outraged, including parents, teachers, students, and players.”

Speaks said he is aware he could play for another high school, but he considers Ballou his family.

“This young man has been through enough. We need to make sure he graduates and assist him in securing a college scholarship,” White’s statement read. “This kind of opportunity will change the trajectory of this young man’s condition by immediately providing him with housing, food, positive extracurricular activities, and college education.”

White says he is monitoring the situation and working with Speaks to try to find him a place to live. Speaks, a three-star recruit, is listed as having committed to Temple on the 247 Sports recruiting website.

We’ve seen situations where homeless college players can’t be helped because of eligibility concerns, but there’s no reason a high school coach should be standing in the way of a player who has a chance to earn a scholarship. If Speaks is in good standing with his school, he should be allowed to play.

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