Eighteen-year-old Jamal Speaks is a senior at Washington, D.C.’s Ballou STAY Opportunity Academy. Last Saturday, he was ready to play in a football game against Anacostia, what would have been his first game in two years. That’s when Ballou principal Willie Jackson stepped in and did not allow Speaks to play.
Speaks had previously played for the Ballou varsity as a freshman and sophomore, but was removed from the team over residency. Now he says he is homeless, sleeping on friends’ couches in DC.
As the Washington Post reported, the 18-year old student at the alternative school on Ballou’s campus that allows students to get their high school diplomas was anticipating showing coaches from Temple University what he could do.
Speaks told the Post that Temple had offered him a scholarship and were coming to see him play Saturday.
Per the Post, the denial of Speaks caused an uproar among students, coaches and fans, as Ballou players refused to take the field for 45 minutes in protest. Several people told the Post that Jackson threatened to fire Ballou head coach Minoso Rodgers if he allowed Speaks to play.
“I was upset at first, because I had so many people come to see me play,” Speaks told the Post. “I worked so hard on and off the field. Have a good GPA, work in the classroom and outside of school … I’m homeless. So me just trying to stay in the area to get back and forth from school, it’s already tough.”
The Post reported that the confusion involving the similarly named D.C. State Athletics Association (DCSAA) and the D.C. Interscholastic Athletic Association (DCIAA) came to a head Wednesday. Speaks had been deemed eligible to play by the DCSAA, which oversees all high school sporting events in the District. But as Speaks told the Post, Jackson insisted he couldn’t play Saturday because the city’s public school league, the DCIAA, had ruled him ineligible in August.
On Wednesday, District of Columbia Public Schools officials told the Post they are investigating the matter further and are working with DCSAA to resolve it as quickly as possible. For now, at least, Speaks “is allowed to practice and play with his team” as it prepares for its next game, Sept. 28 at Theodore Roosevelt.
You can find more on Speaks’ story from the Post here.