Chicago Public Schools originally planned to hold the Battle of Vincennes, top-ranked Morgan Park vs. No. 3 Simeon, at Brooks on Saturday afternoon. Then on Tuesday the game was moved to Little Village due to a miscommunication between CPS officials and Brooks officials.
That was the last straw for the parents of Morgan Park’s basketball players. They banded together on Tuesday and decided that if the game wasn’t played at Morgan Park they wouldn’t allow their sons to play.
“We will not allow our boys to play in the Morgan Park and Simeon game this Saturday, scheduled to be played at Little Village High School at 1 p.m. if we do not play in our own gym,” the parents said in a statement. “If we have not received a response by close of business Jan. 14, 2016, we will advise our sons not to play this Saturday.”
Morgan Park coach Nick Irvin said he was not aware of the planned boycott.
“That’s shocking,” Irvin said. “I don’t really talk to (parents) during the season.”
Irvin said he planned to play with whatever players were allowed to play in the game by their parents.
According to Tiffany Burrell, the mother of junior Romelo Burrell, all of the players will participate in the boycott.
“All the parents are supportive of the boycott, no one will play,” Burrell said. “We don’t want to go outside our neighborhood, it is a home game. And honestly, if we are traveling so far away for a home game how can we have the support of the school? This is a high school game, not a college game or professional game, it should be played at the school.”
Burrell has two students currently attending Morgan Park and one that will be a freshman next year.
“We know the gym is too small, but what are we going to do about it?” Burrell said. “Why are we the only people that have to move? We are tired of it.”
The CPS offered to move the game back to Brooks later on Wednesday afternoon. The parents rejected the offer.
“As of right now it is Morgan Park or nothing,” Burrell said. “That’s the end of it. If it is not at Morgan Park there will not be a game. They will have to let us know by tomorrow.”
Last year the game was held at Young, the year before it was at Brooks. Previously the game was held at Chicago State, but that hasn’t happened since Morgan Park student Tyrone Lawson was shot and killed after the game in 2013. The Simeon leg of the game has been held at Simeon the past few seasons.
Little Village’s gym holds 1,900 and Brooks holds 800 people.
“Due to the high profile of this matchup, CPS is working with school officials to secure an appropriate venue that will safely accommodate community interest and fans of both sides,” a CPS spokesperson said in a statement.
Simeon coach Robert Smith says his team will play wherever the CPS tells him to. He isn’t worried about the safety of his players at Morgan Park, but he does understand CPS’ concerns.
“I think the biggest issue is (the Morgan Park gym) is too small for the magnitude of the game,” Smith said. “You are only going to be able to get 300 people in there. At Simeon you can get 1200 in and you still have 400 outside that can’t get it in. That’s what they are concerned with, what do we do with all the people outside?”
Smith said he has no problem playing in Morgan Park’s tiny gym.
“We used to play the game there all the time,” Smith said. “Derrick Rose played there, it doesn’t get bigger than that.”