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O’Brien: Morgan Park will boycott Battle of Vincennes

Morgan Park parents Tiffany Burrell and Monique Chatman sat in the bleachers at Julian on Thursday and watched their sons play basketball as the 5 p.m. deadline they gave Chicago Public Schools officials expired.

“We have not heard anything from CPS,” Burrell said. “One of the parents has reached out several times and has received no response.”

Burrell, Chatman and all the parents of Morgan Park basketball players banded together this week to make a stand. They want the Battle of Vincennes, the rivalry game that pits the top-ranked Mustangs against No. 3 Simeon, to be played at Morgan Park and not at the CPS-selected venue, Brooks. The parents told the CPS if the game wasn’t moved by 5 p.m. on Thursday that their children would not play.

CPS spokesperson Emily Bittner emailed a statement to the Sun-Times on Thursday at 7 p.m.: “Because of the strong interest in this game, it will be returning to the court at Brooks, which has the capacity to host most of the expected attendees.”

Burrell and the Morgan Park parents say they are following through with their threatened boycott. They won’t allow their sons to play in the game on Saturday at Brooks, so the Mustangs will forfeit.

“I have to follow my parents’ orders,” Morgan Park star guard Charlie Moore, a Memphis recruit, said. “If they tell me I can’t play I can’t disobey them.”

The Morgan Park parents want their kids to play all the home games at Morgan Park. That’s step one. Step two is for a reasonably-sized gym to be built at the school. The current Morgan Park gym only holds 270 people, which is why the CPS always moves the Mustangs’ leg of the Battle of Vincennes.

“It’s not just about the game,” Burrell said. “We are trying to show them that we need resources. There is a dire need for resources for the community, for Morgan Park. It doesn’t make sense that we can’t get the necessities. All the other schools have these things.

“We didn’t think of this just two days ago. This has been our fight for awhile. We wanted to do something last year, we’ve wanted to do something every year and things happened. So this time we made sure we did something. (Chicago) is always in a financial crisis, but money is still allocated other places. Why can’t we get our fair share?”

There wasn’t any sign of fracture among the Morgan Park players or parents at Julian.

“I’m proud of my mom,” Morgan Park senior Jarrin Randall, a Western Michigan recruit, said. “She and the other parents have come together to try and get this game to happen at Morgan Park. I support my mom and I listen to her.”

The parents received a letter from 19th Ward Alderman Matt O’Shea on Thursday. O’Shea said Morgan Park has received more than $30 million in improvements over the past five years, which included a new heating and cooling system, a new roof and new windows.

The parents don’t think that is nearly enough and they are hoping their boycott could be a spark that inspires parents across the city.

“I know other schools are having problems, maybe not with a gymnasium but with textbooks or other facilities,” Chatman said. “Maybe this will help them find their voice and speak out too.”

Randall, Chatman and Moore, Morgan Park’s three key seniors, have all played several games against Simeon. They have resigned themselves to the fact that they probably won’t be playing on Saturday, but that doesn’t mean The Battle of Vincennes can’t happen one more time in their high school careers.

“Hopefully we can see them again in the city tournament,” Randall said. “We will be banking on that.”