CPS athletes head to City Hall to voice frustration over strike, but arrive just after Lightfoot leaves

The athletes didn’t have a formal meeting scheduled with the mayor, but wanted to meet with her to talk about “how she took away our sport.”

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Khalyl Warren, a senior at Simeon Career Academy High School who plays football, speaks to reporters outside Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s office at City Hall to voice their frustration over the impact the CTU strike is having on CPS students and athletes.

Khalyl Warren, a senior at Simeon Career Academy High School who plays football, speaks to reporters outside Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s office at City Hall, Friday afternoon, Oct. 25, 2019. The students showed up at Lightfoot’s office to voice their frustration over the impact the Chicago Teachers Union strike is having on Chicago Public Schools students and athletes.

Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

A group of 30 Chicago Public Schools athletes and students who faced missing out on the state playoffs arrived at City Hall Friday hoping to speak with Mayor Lori Lightfoot to voice their frustration over the impact of the Chicago Teachers Union strike.

The group, led by Simeon football players, told the Sun-Times on Wednesday they planned to meet up around 10:30 a.m. and head to City Hall “to get our word across on how she took away our sport.”

Although members of the group had posted its intentions on social media, they had not formally requested a meeting with Lightfoot and had no official appointment. Lightfoot, it turns out, left City Hall just minutes before they arrived. Despite the Sun-Times story, a mayoral spokesperson said the mayor did not know they wanted to meet.

“I think she’s afraid,” Simeon senior Khalyl Warren said. “She is showing fear. But it is OK. We assumed she would be here to say a couple words, say something that we wanted to hear. Something for our teachers, something for us. But if she walked away, she walked away.”

Simeon senior Ronald Haggins initially said the group would stay until Lightfoot returned, but they decided to leave at around 1 p.m. after giving several media interviews.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot walks out of City Hall shortly before a group of Simeon High School students were scheduled to request a meeting to voice their frustration over the impact the CTU strike is having on CPS students and athletes, Oct. 25, 2019.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot walks out of City Hall with Corporation Counsel Mark Flessner (left) shortly before a group of Simeon Career Academy High School students were scheduled to arrive and request a meeting to voice their frustration over the impact the Chicago Teachers Union strike is having on Chicago Public Schools students and athletes, Friday afternoon, Oct. 25, 2019.

Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

“We aren’t leaving until we see her,” Haggins said. “We have all day like she does. She will come back, it is her office, she has to come back.”

The group, which included students from Simeon, Bogan, Phillips, King and Phoenix, supports the CTU’s strike and believes the city should meet the union’s demands. Three students gave prepared statements at a media conference, detailing why the strike needs to end now and why they need nurses in their schools.

“Basically we want to get our word across on how she took away our sport and how this is our chance out of Chicago,” Warren said on Wednesday. “I want to let her know how her keeping us out of school is making us targets for gun violence and gang-related things. There are homeless teens with nowhere to go.

“As a dedicated former high school athlete herself, Mayor Lightfoot is a strong supporter of all of the student athletes throughout Chicago,” a spokesperson for Lighfoot said. “She applauds their willingness to stand up for their rights as both students and athletes, and she is committed to doing all that she can to support their future success – in the classroom, on the field, and beyond.”

Later in the day, however, the team learned the Illinois High School Association had granted the team a waiver to its rules, allowing them the chance to play if the strike ends by Thursday.

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