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Jamal Speaks, 18, is a senior at Ballou-STAY Opportunity Academy. He fell on hard times after his father passed away, and he and his mother no longer communicate. He currently stays at a friends’ house but is trying to get into college via a football scholarship. However, his dreams were threatened when Principal Willie Jackson refused to let him play the Ballou High School football team’s game against Anacostia, according to

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Speaks told WJLA, “I’m being told I can’t play by the principal. I don’t know why he’s telling me I can’t play.” reports officials in D.C. say he is eligible to play, and D.C. Councilmember Trayon White released a statement which read in part, “When asked about the circumstances surrounding his decision, Principal Jackson communicated to Councilmember Trayon White that he did not want any negative publicity. In response, the community was outraged, including parents, teachers, students, and players.”

The statement continued, “Mr. Speaks previously had issues with eligibility due to residential verification, however was cleared to be a District of Columbia Public School (DCPS) student last year and this school year. Councilmember White spoke to Mr. Clark Ray, Executive Director of the District of Columbia State Athletic Association (DCSAA) and communicated with Interim Chancellor Amanda Alexander whom both confirmed Mr. Speaks was eligible to play.”

Speaks’ coach and teammates delayed a Saturday game for 45 minutes to try and let Speaks play, but Principal Jackson allegedly threatened to fire the coach.

Councilmember White reached out to Mayor Muriel Bowser, Interim Chancellor Alexander and Principal Jackson on behalf of Speaks, saying, “This goes beyond football. This is the kind of player we need to put our time and resources behind. We cannot afford to turn our backs on this young man.”

Speaks said he was offered a scholarship by Temple University if he keeps up his grades. The Temple coaches were coming to see him play Saturday, but, could not since he was not allowed to play.

As of now, Principal Jackson has not released a statement on why he will not let Speaks play. See the news clip below:


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