By Patrick Forrest, Chicago Crusader
A night of basketball ended in a brawl just outside of the United Center causing the postponement of the championship games in the West Haven Safe Summer League Monday night. Organizers of the league claim that the brawl was planned many nights before on social media.
“We do believe that social media played a role in this, there were two rival factions that decided they wanted to meet at the United Center and cause a ruckus.” Earnest Gates, executive director of Near West Side Community Development Corporation said.
Program organizers also, in a conference answering questions about the incident and the future of the program, stated that the incident only furthers the need for the program.
“Some of the individuals involved in the brawl are actually 12 and 13 years of age,” said Oji Eggleston, program director for the West Haven Safe Sports Club. “And they were planning to meet a rival group of individuals at the United Center and use that as the platform to engage in the activities that they did.”
With the preplanned nature of the incident organizers fear there may not be much they can do to prevent a similar incident in the future.
“It’s a lot like a bomber, if you want to get somewhere and do something destructive, there’s only so much that can be done to stop that,” Gates said
Gates and other organizers also stressed the importance and continued success the Safe Summer basketball program had sustained in a prepared statement.
“The idea was simple, during the hot summer months we would provide youth, family and community an activity they could do, to date we have had zero injuries, zero deaths and with the exception of Monday night zero fights in the nine years of the program.” Gates said
The Safe Summer Basketball League Is an 8 week program founded in 2007. Its mission is to educate, inspire and empower more than 400 inner-city youth while giving young people a safe and welcoming place during the summer to learn the power of teamwork.
“Safe Summer is more than just a brawl,” Gates said. “Yes there was a brawl at the United Center but it was at the United Center. No other sports franchise has opened its doors and become partners with the community like the Chicago Bulls and Blackhawks.”
Gates also pleaded for those who are viewing the program after the brawl to consider the success of the program in its mission.
“We came together and thought, ‘if we could keep their butts off the streets then we could stop their asses from being beat’ and we feel that over the past 9 years that you haven’t heard about us that we have done that.”
But even Gates contends that that job was not a success Monday night, and 17-year-old Jarrett Robinson agreed.
“It wasnt even about the tournament,” Robinson who attended Monday at the United Center said. “They just started going at it, it wasnt a whole lot of people but it just got bigger and bigger.”
Robinson, who said Monday was both his first experience in the United Center and with the Safe Summer program. He said he would also come back despite the fight.
“It sucks what happens but it seem like a cool idea,” Robinson said. “I would do it to play there.”
And Robinson is not alone in that sentiment. Gates stated in his fearful plea about the future of the program at the United Center.
“You have to see the looks on the kid’s faces, walking into the locker room that the players use, playing on that floor that the see on TV every fall,” Gates said. “I don’t want this one incident to ruin all that.”
The tournament end is to be held at Crane Prep High school and the program’s future is still to be discussed.