Norwood, other communities leave Pop Warner's Bay State League By Kit Kadlec / Daily News Staff Tuesday, June 7, 2005 In a move raising accusations of racism, five area Pop Warner teams, including the one in Norwood, have withdrawn from the youth football Bay State League. The teams have decided to join a new league, American Youth Football, which is separate from Pop Warner. The defections have left the nine-team Bay State Conference with only one suburban team, Walpole, and an official there told the Boston Globe it also is considering withdrawing from the conference. Walpole officials will meet this month to discuss the subject. According to the Globe, the teams left to play a more suburban schedule and because they were intimidated by the harder hitting of the inner-city teams as well as an atmosphere charged with rap music. Dorchester Eagles president Kenny Williams said in the article that those reasons for leaving Bay State smack of racism. Four of the five teams to withdraw come from towns with black populations of 2 percent or less: Needham-Wellesley, Norwood, Weymouth and Natick. Framingham, the fifth team to withdraw, has a 5.1 percent black population, according to the most recent census. The Bay State League includes a number of inner-city teams with nearly or entirely black squads. Interviewed yesterday, Mattapan Patriots board member Jonathan Gates said he wouldn't "play the race card" in reacting to the suburban teams' defection, but he did criticize them for leaving the league. He said he believes the real reason the teams decided to move is that parents have grown tired of their kids losing to better inner-city teams. (Dorchester has won the championship the past four years in a row). "It's not supposed to be just about winning and losing; it's about making them better human beings," Gates said. He criticized suburban officials for partly blaming the pull-out on rap music blasted from cars outside city games, music that Gates said white players also like to listen to. He also said it is "sad" that racial tensions have been evoked in the discussion. "It's a shame that we got this far. They have the right to pull out. But for them to feed into something that is so negative, that this state and city have tried for so long to put beneath it, that's what I have a problem with." Gates said kids in his program enjoyed playing in suburban towns and seeing people and places outside their own neighborhood. "I liked them getting to go to places like Norwood, because you get to go outside the inner city and see that you can compete with them," he said. The issue might come to a head again Thursday when Pop Warner holds a regional meeting with coaches and board members at 7 p.m. at the Norwood VFW on Dean Street. Norwood Pop Warner Athletic Director Mark Nardelli declined to comment yesterday, but confirmed that Norwood last week voted to move out of the Bay State League. Bob Curtin, a board member for Needham-Wellesley Pop Warner, denied race had anything to do with the decision. He said it was more to do with Bay State and Pop Warner management. "It started to become clear that we were at odds with our own conference," Curtin said. Curtin said the suburban teams want more control over their schedules so they can play more games against each other. Bay State League officials did not return a request for comment yesterday. There are still nine teams left in the Bay State League, even with the five abandoning it to join the new league. Some suburban teams, including Dedham, left the Bay State League last year. Dedham Pop Warner vice president Carmen Dello Iacono said he was shocked to hear racism being cited as the reason for teams leaving. Dello Iacono said Dedham left because it wanted to play more of its local suburban rivals the kids would play later in high school, but did not receive much cooperation from the Bay State League officials in that request. He said there was never any issue with playing teams with predominantly black players and on inner city fields. "Did racism have anything to do with Dedham leaving? Absolutely not," Dello Iacono said. "Football is football and these kids hit hard no matter what. It doesn't matter if you're black, white, purple or pink." He also denied that the domination in the league by city teams had anything to do with Dedham's decision to leave the league. According to the Globe article, safety issues for the league made up of 7-to-14-year-olds was part of the suburban teams' concern. Last summer, Jenry Gonzalez, 11, was shot in the chest during a Pop Warner practice in a Roxbury park. But Dello Iacono said safety was not the reason for the move. And he denied there ever being any racial tensions. He added that Hyde Park, a city team, is in the Hockomock League Dedham just joined. "You go to any town and you can face problems and tensions," Dello Iacono said. Officials in other towns, such as Framingham and Natick, did not return phone calls seeking comment yesterday. http://www.dailynewstranscript.com/localRegional/view.bg?articleid=57978 A response from another messageboard poster: He summarized the bias nicely.