In their own show of force, all 10 teams in the Allegheny County Midget Football League came together at Chadwick Field in Lincoln-Larimer. Reflecting the show of force demonstrated by Pittsburgh police officers after a violent incident earlier in the week, the teams united on the field Aug. 18 to demonstrate their unity.
“We’re here just to show we have unity and support,” said Jose Regus, league president. “It shows that we’re going to stick together and make this league as prosperous as it’s always been. We’re going to continue to do what we’re all here to do, give these kids guidance. We’re about more than football.”
The action came as a response to a shooting following a league football game at the Willie Stargell Field in Homewood Aug. 15. After the shootings that left three people wounded, Police Chief Nate Harper threatened to cancel league games in the city if community members did not come forward with information. They did.
To further mend the strained relationship between the league and law enforcement, city officials and team coaches met to develop a plan for making the games safer. At the meeting and during the gathering at Chadwick field, the coaches pledged to work harder at policing themselves.
“When you see a problem, address it,” Regus said. “We’re just not going to tolerate the things that have happened in the past. We’re going to keep this a kid’s environment.”
Despite popular sentiments that Pittsburgh’s neighborhoods are often hostile towards each other, coaches, players and fans on teams from the East End to the North Side gathered to voice support for the league.
“It shows we will unite around the kids. The thing that happened at the field, it wasn’t a Hill District-Homewood thing,” said Monte Robinson, a Homewoods coach. “It was a great show of support for the league and Homewood especially because that’s where the incident was around. It woke everyone up.”
|SHOW OF SUPPORT—Jose Regus addresses the packed bleachers at Chadwick field.
“I want to say it sends a message that the league itself is serious about doing what’s best for the kids,” said Paulette Bradford, Clairton league president. “We were in a position when there was never anything to do as kids. I’d really hate to see it happen. I hope and pray everybody steps up.”
No one in the group of approximately 200 people voiced a word of distrust for the league. Even from the perspective of those living outside the community, the league is an overwhelmingly positive organization.
“I think if you came to the games you can see just how much the community rallies around these games,” said referee Carmen Trovato. “It’s unfair because it has nothing to do with the coaches, players and fans. From a referee stand we have never had one issue, ever.”
With a cheerleading squad in tow, the football league offers something for young girls as well. Adults involved said the girls are just as dedicated and put out just as much effort as the young men on the football teams.
“It proves that everyone is interested in keeping a more positive community and if something negative is going on, trying to stop it,” said Marta Regus, cheerleading coach. “It gives the girls a lot of things to do. It keeps the kids busy. It keeps them out of trouble. It gives the girls a chance to learn how to do something.”