(CBS) – Some parents of boys basketball players at North Lawndale College Prep are upset about suspensions handed out following a fight at a state playoff game earlier this week.
Parents and players said video clearly shows a Marshall High School player threw the first punch. They said the melee quickly got out of hand because security was inadequate and the Public League rushed to judgment.
Marcus Betts of the North Lawndale Community Development Coalition hoped a playoff game with Westchester-St. Joseph would be rescheduled, rather than forfeited.
Stiff Suspensions Questioned
Team captain Fred Sims said the North Lawndale players were drawn into the fight reluctantly.
"We regret this happened," Sims said. "We are not villains. We are not thugs. We are family that wants what's best for each other."
By all accounts, it had been a physical game between two intense rivals Wednesday night, as North Lawndale beat Marshall in the 3A sectional playoff at Westinghouse High School. When the two teams lined up to shake hands, they began exchanging heated words, and soon players were throwing punches.
The teams' fans soon joined the brawl.
The eight North Lawndale players who will return next season say they are willing to forfeit their first three games next season, the same as Marshall.
A number of students boycotted classes Friday in protest over the Public League's decision, and indicated that they would boycott again on Monday, should there be no change of heart.
Marshall coach Henry Cotton disagrees players on his side caused the melee. He says he viewed the security tape and it shows that North Lawndale struck first.
He also says one of his players had to go to the hospital and he supports the suspensions for both schools.
Earlier, a CPS spokesperson said the decision would stand:
"Chicago Public Schools does not tolerate unsportsmanlike behavior from our student athletes before, during or after competitions. The conduct of both teams is unacceptable and contrary to the goals of our athletic programs, which are intended to help students develop a strong work ethic, teamwork mentality and leadership skills."
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