September 21, 2010
Whether we like it or not, we're all living in the YouTube era, a time of voyeurism both good natured and vindictive where anyone can share every little thing they do with all their friends.
Unfortunately for the St. Vincent Pallotti football team, on YouTube itself, people besides your friends can also see what you post, which temporarily landed the team a season-long suspension. That ban was later revoked after the Panthers had already forfeited their game against Western Tech last week.
According to Maryland newspaper The Laurel Leader, Pallotti's varsity football season was put on hiatus last week by school Principal Steve Edmonds, whom you see to the right, after Edmonds watched a rap video involving "10 to 12" Pallotti players, which was posted on YouTube after a practice. Edmonds claimed that the song in the video -- which was recorded in the team's locker room -- reflected poorly on both the players and the school, and decided to suspend the season indefinitely as a result. Because the video was filmed on Pallotti's campus, Edmonds' request that YouTube take it down was granted last week.
When compared to other recent prep-sports incidents, the one-game team suspension seems like a caustic penalty for what seems like a relatively minor indiscretion (though that does seem a bit hard to judge because the YouTube video that caused Edmonds' furor has not re-surfaced). Elk River (Minn.) High School had its program temporarily suspended indefinitely following serious hazing allegations this summer, but the Elks returned before the season opened and did not miss any games. Nationally ranked Dr. Phillips (Fla.) High School is in the midst of a hazing investigation brought on by a freshman player, but no players or coaches have been disciplined in any way in that case.
In Pallotti's case, the potential season-long ban was curtailed over the weekend after the team brought forth a formal apology to Edmonds, who subsequently reinstated the program for the remainder of the season.
"I met with the team Friday afternoon and they brought a formal apology, signed by all of the football team," Edmonds told the Laurel Leader on Monday morning. "They presented themselves very well. They are going to do some community service to illustrate what kind of young players they need to be."
Was the letter of apology essential for the program to be reinstated?
"Yes. You want to make sure when somebody makes a mistake they recognize and are willing to acknowledge that mistake," Edmonds said. "The letter gave me that. I have all the confidence in the world that this situation was not typical of their behavior. I am ready for them to move on. They all took responsibility for each other as a team. I think that was important."
Amazingly, some Pallotti players agreed with the ban, saying that the YouTube video presented serious enough concerns to warrant a suspension of the program.
"He did what had to be done," Pallotti co-captain Justin Clatworthy told the Laurel Leader. He also said the video "had major implications."
The Panthers returned to practice in preparation for Friday's game against Friends School of Baltimore, which will be the team's first game action since Sep. 11. Meanwhile, Edmonds told the Laurel Leader that the one-game suspension will serve as a reminder of scholastic priorities for the Pallotti players.
"Pallotti High is known for having high standards. More than developing football players, the school is about developing young men and women with integrity," Edmonds said Thursday. "We expect all of our students to have a moral code and ethics to represent a Christian school. Here was some behavior that brought some attention to the team that was inappropriate."