Photo by Lamontae Harrison
Members of the Little Vikings youth sports organization during a recent game played at Sto-Rox High School.
By Elizabeth Perry
The president of the Little Vikings youth football organization says complaints leveled against the league are unfounded and tantamount to harassment.
Cameron Culliver, who took over as organizational president earlier this year, said a recent email from the McKees Rocks Borough accusing the Little Vikings of being in breach of contract was based on falsehoods.
“We're talking about trying to bring great things back to the community and then we're telling our own kids to go away," Culliver said.
The email, which was provided to Gazette 2.0, stated the youth sports organization was in violation of contract because they weren’t authorized to practice on Fridays and an updated schedule was requested. Borough President Archie Brinza was copied in the email which stated questions were to be directed at him.
“We have also had multiple complaints from residents about noise, parking and disruptive behaviors during the times you are there. We want to work together with you to solve these issues and to ensure the children a safe and fun environment to learn, play and grow,” Jennifer Slavicek, assistant borough manager, wrote in the email.
Slavicek said she sent the email at the direction of Council President Brinza.
“Archie used to be president of Little Vikings. Now it feels like he's so against us, it hurts a lot,” Culliver said.
Culliver also expressed the sentiment that Brinza was trying to “play both sides of the fence,” with himself and residents who live near the field.
Borough officials received the email that kicked off this larger issue from a resident who has a history of making complaints about the activities at Rangers Field.
The email noted “confusion as to the availability of the fields on Fridays” and that “it seems there is no communication as to expectations and any social planning for the residents.”
When asked for comment about the controversy over the use of Rangers Field, Brinza said there was no controversy and that council supports the Little Vikings 100%. He did concede a lack of communication created the problem and that when the resident and others complained, he took their concerns very seriously.
“I do apologize, it’s just me trying to deal with things both sides of the fence, getting the same end game,” Brinza said. “In this position, you have to deal with some people differently than others.”
Culliver sent out a lengthy email to borough council members, McKees Rocks Mayor David Flick, Gina Beavers, president of the NAACP chartering committee of McKees Rocks, and several others with a copy of the team’s contract attached refuting the accusations made in the borough’s email.
“We're constantly being hounded, picked on, it was about time folks got brought into the know,” Culliver said.
Culliver said in the email the McKees Rocks Police Department, “attends many of our practices to build a rapport with the community and they join in on the fun with the kids.”
In a later interview, he said, “If we're doing something wrong, why aren't the police telling us?”
Culliver lives near the field and said he personally inspects it to make sure it’s clean after events.
Because a majority of the youth who participate in the Little Vikings program are Black, Beavers said in her mind the ongoing concerns with the use of the field are “inherently a race issue.”
“Given the epidemic of violence of young people in the community everywhere, it just seems like poor public policy to limit positive activity. Poor public policy and poor understanding of the needs of the community,” said Beavers.
Flick said he’d heard no complaints about the Little Vikings prior to being included in the email discourse. “I don’t see anything in that agreement that they broke. What I’ve been hearing from people is that a handful of people who live by the field have their apple cart upset when kids use the field,” Flick said.
“Why would I want to punish some kid who wants to play football because we can’t make the parking work?”
Beavers said the lack of concern toward the Black community was directly related to the lack of representation on the borough council.
“We don’t have any representation on council, so they’re not going to take an interest in the issues that impact the African-American community. We, as in Black people, are not in the conversation in council, so it would be easy to take things away that are working,” Beavers said.