ROBBINSVILLE, N.J. – The T-shirts sold at the Pope John/Paramus Catholic football game that read “Learning vs. Livin” have drawn the attention of the NJSIAA.
The New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association held its monthly Executive Committee meeting on Wednesday and discussed a wide array of topics, including a big change to the state Meet of Champions in outdoor track, new initiatives on handling issues regarding foreign students playing athletics and limits on high school coaches in the off-season.
Back in North Jersey, anger continues to grow among the Paramus Catholic community over the T-shirts sold Saturday at the front gate referring to the matchup between Pope John and Paramus Catholic.
Pope John athletic director Mia Gavan said in a phone call Tuesday morning that the shirts were approved by the athletic department with the proceeds going toward the football booster club. Pope John won the game, 43-7.
“There was no intention to upset anyone, or degrade or put anyone down,” said Gavan. “We preach learning here and we know they have the livin’ motto. I don’t see the issue, but everyone has their opinions.”
A phone call and an email to Paramus Catholic Principal Stephanie Macaluso seeking comment have not been returned. Although, it is obvious that the shirts were seen by members of the Paladins coaching staff and team.
Attallah Brightwell, the mother of a current and past Paladin football player, found the shirts offensive.
“This was an intentional choice to suggest that the players from Pope John learn, while those from PC do not,” said Brightwell. “I find it to be disgusting when a group of women begin to behave in such a manner where they feel the need to insult a group of kids. Particularly those who continue to claim religious status with their cross featured high above their words of hate.”
Brightwell said she asked Gavan about the shirts in a phone call Tuesday, and was told that the school used the “Learning” motto. She inquired whether “Learning” had been used for other shirts and was told no.
Outgoing NJSIAA Executive Director Steve Timko said he was not aware of the T-shirts, but another assistant director said that the organization would be in touch with the school.
It is not clear what sanctions – if any – can be levied against Pope John. However, the NJSIAA has taken great pride in the sportsmanship policy that is read before athletic events detailing the consequences of inflammatory speech or actions by fans. The genesis of that policy stemmed from an incident at a Bergen Catholic/Paramus Catholic football game several years ago.