Officials from the Dorchester Eagles youth football and cheerleading program made it official yesterday: They have pulled out of the national Pop Warner organization and joined a new youth sports league. The break comes on the heels of a bitter dispute that began after a brawl involving members of the Eagles and a rival team from Rhode Island last December.
The Eagles, who have been among the nation's top-ranked football programs for the last several years, have maintained that the discipline meted out by Pop Warner officials was "a rush to judgment" and overly harsh. League leaders have been huddling in recent weeks to make a decision on whether to stay in the league or not.
In a letter blasted out to parents and Pop Warner officials yesterday, Eagles president Leslie Goodwin explained that the Dorchester organization has joined the American Youth Football League, "thus prompting our resignation from Pop Warner."
The full text of Goodwin's letterâ€” which was addressed to leaders of the Greater Boston Pop Warner League- follows:
Subject: Final Decision
Please let this e-mail serve as our memorandum regarding our status with Pop Warner.
I regret to inform you that the Dorchester Eagles will no longer be a part of the Pop Warner Conference of Eastern MA and the Greater Boston League.
We have been in existence for fourteen years now; we have seven New England Regional Championships, along with many state and conference championships. We have been a stellar organization within Pop Warner and represented our community and New England with the utmost pride, respect, and dignity. We never make excuses and exhibit all that we instill, believe, strive for in our children.
Our program works very hard to be the best on and off the field. And although it may not matter to Pop Warner, it matters to us. It is a part of our existence; with so many shifting circumstances, it is vital that we remain in our community and provide our children with an ability to excel. The foundation that is set through organized sports, is the building blocks for life. You have to learn to believe and trust in your abilities and the people around you, it is called "life lessons"; being a part of our organization separates you from the rest.
Dorchester is not afraid to fail, but we are not going to allow the Pop Warner organization to rob us of our successes and shut-down our program. We have many children who are no longer in our program, but have gone on to do wonders with themselves.
We understand that you and Al have gone above and beyond to get the sanctions overturned; however, all that we have built over the years, has been ruined by a rush to judgment. Many will say what could have happened, what should have happened and how it could have been handled differently; but even with the amount of evidence provided by us, no one has admitted that there was a "rush to judgement" and corrected it.
We believe that we are the best and never had any issues that resulted in written or verbal warnings from Disney or Pop Warner.
Now our organization has to not only rebuild our character within the community, but we have to fight to regain our respect and accountability with our sponsors and parents. Everything changed for us. No one wants to support an organization that is accused of 'violence" in an open area. Pop Warner's actions and media releases really damaged our program. Therefore, we have to rebuild and plan to do so. In all negative situations, there is always a positive outcome.
We may have been dealt the "short end of the stick", but we will "not be broken". We can no longer wait for the tribunal to do what is right. They know that their sanctions were unjust and still they do not want to overturn their decision.
It pains us to know that Pop Warner does not have the same pride, respect and integrity as we do and we no longer wish to be a part of such an organization. In youth sports, there are trials and tribulations, but to take away our ability to play and compete like everyone else is absurd. Why would you punish our whole organization for the actions of four individuals who will not be eligible for play this upcoming season. And this is while the other team involved in the incident is allowed to continue to compete with only probation.
In addition, we all know that there have been many fights during National Week and some were far worse than what transpired in that cafeteria. The altercation at the pool in 2007, that involved three teams was horrible; yet they were able to compete this year and they too, were only placed on probation.
So the sanctions imposed on our program are viewed as personal. Our Midget Squad was not involved in a brawl; it was only four kids fighting the Edgewood Eagles' entire team and coaching staff. Pop Warner, with its sanctions has proven to us that they are no longer about the children. It is about their governing body and what they feel at the moment, with no regard for the many children who play for us and the ones who want to play for us. They feel that what we do is replaceable and it is not; how can you want people to make a difference and then unfairly take the rewards from them?
With all that has happened, we have joined the American Youth Football League, thus prompting our resignation from Pop Warner.
We hope that everyone has learned a valuable lesson; a rush to judgment is cancerous and can harm so many. Our organization's reputation was ripped to shreds by Pop Warner's actions and exploitation of the facts, but we wish you and the PWCofEM the best of luck this year.
Leslie Goodwin, President