The ESPN program, Outside the Lines, reported on Dec. 18 about a youth football league in southern Broward County, Florida. The program first spotlighted the league in the fall of 2010 because of allegations of rampant gambling on the outcome of games and the performance of players. The reporting crew found gambling activities openly taking place on the sidelines of league games involving players between the ages of 7 and 12.
The league president, when questioned by a reporter, expressed surprise that such activities could be taking place. He promised to work with authorities to clean things up. The show’s report indicated that thousands of dollars were being bet on individual games and that star players were routinely paid “bonuses” for outstanding performances. It was estimated that some players received well over $1000 during the 2010 season.
When the reporters went back this season much of the gambling activity was not openly present. Instead police officers roamed through the crowd, at times using portable metal scanners to search for weapons and patting down some fans deemed suspicious. One mother of a player spoke on camera, but with her face blurred and without her name being used. She said she feared retaliation from drug dealers involved in gambling. She told the reporter that she was at one of her son’s practices back in August when two men she knew to be drug dealers approached several players on her son’s team and offered them money for outstanding performances and for team victories.
Bob Ley is the anchor for Outside the Lines. He reported that ESPN had received negative emails and phone calls from people upset with the two pieces. The primary reporter for the pieces said she has been told that a number of parents were upset about the crackdown because their sons had been earning good money for the family. It should be noted that most of the players in the league come from lower income neighborhoods north of Miami.
It is a sad commentary on ethics and on the role of sports in our society when stories such as this one surface. It would seem that people working in sports at any level must be attuned to these kinds of problems today. To see the entire report go to http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/otl/index.