Posted: 12:35 pm Wednesday, July 22nd, 2009

Pahokee AD: “There will be a punishment” for theft at Nike tournament 

By Jason Lieser

Despite his football team’s recent dismissal from a 7-on-7 tournament, Pahokee athletic director Tom Mejia believes he has a relatively well-behaved team.

The Blue Devils were sent home one day into Nike’s 7on tournament in Beaverton, Ore. for allegedly stealing football gloves off of a display at the facility. Mejia said the school is investigating the situation internally and believes the theft involved only one player. If that is the case, smearing the reputation of the rest of the players and coaches on the team is unfair, Mejia said.

“I’m not upset with the coaching staff and I’m not upset with the team either,” Mejia said. “We have some really good kids on that team. It’s just one bad apple and we’re trying to figure out which one it is.

“It’s shocking because we have good kids this year. We didn’t expect anything like this to happen with this group.”

Rodney Knox, Nike’s public relations official for the event, released a one-sentence statement saying, “Pahokee High School has been removed from Nike’s 2009 ‘7on’ competition due to code of conduct violations,” and declined to answer questions.

Pahokee coach Blaze Thompson, making his first public comments since the incident, said Wednesday the players have already sent Nike an apology letter.

“We’re embarrassed and ashamed of our behavior in Oregon,” Thompson said. “We’re going to be working diligently to repair our image. We’ve dealt with these things in the past and we’ll deal with it now.

“As a coaching staff, we work so hard to teach proper behavior and instill in our kids respect. It hurts when these things happen, but it reminds us that we have a job to do. It’s never over. It’s a constant endeavor to teach each new group of kids.”

After making his statement, Thompson declined to answer any questions about the situation.

Even if the act was limited to one player, Mejia said there will be consequences for the entire team. Players directly involved could be suspended, but Mejia said that discipline will be determined by Alejo.

“There will be a punishment,” Mejia said. “We’re definitely going to cut off some privileges. What happened is pretty unacceptable. It’s extremely frustrating. It’s a pretty prestigious tournament and there is zero tolerance for that kind of behavior.

“Because there was prior history, (Nike officials) were fed up.”

It is the second straight year Nike dismissed Pahokee from a 7-on-7 tournament. Last summer the team competed in a local version of the event in Miramar and was ejected after brawling on the field with Booker T. Washington. Pahokee withdrew from the adidas national championship later that summer as self-imposed punishment.

Mejia, who has been on vacation this summer and did not travel with the team to the tournament, said this “code of conduct violation” did not involve any confrontation with players from another team.

“Our sportsmanship, which has been a problem in the past, was actually pretty good,” Mejia said. “But bottom line, our kids need to be more respectable. As an athlete, the limelight is always going to be on you so you have to behave as a good citizen.”