Episode 3: Who Gets to Play?

 
shaffiou.jpeg
When I moved to the U.S., I was like, okay, this is going to be a life-changing opportunity. Who knows, maybe I could become the next Usain Bolt.
— Shaffiou Assoumanou, Alumnus of International Community High School
 
 
 

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Watch any movie about high school. The plot line will include, if not revolve around, sports. It's a defining part of the high school experience. But, according to a new lawsuit, more than 17,000 black and Hispanic New York City students attend a high school with zero sports teams. Tens of thousands more attend schools with just a handful of teams. Meanwhile, Tottenville High School, one of the whitest public high schools in the city, has 44 sports teams.

A group of students and advocates in the Fair Play Coalition is seeking to change these facts and ensure that all students, regardless of ethnicity, have the ability to play any sport the Public School Athletic League offers.

Among Mr. Garcia-Rosen's inspirations: Tommie Smith and John Carlos, black sprinters who staged a "black fist" protest at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico; former San Francisco 49ers quarterback and racial justice activist Colin Kaepernick; and Martin Luther King, Jr. With the support of his students, he founded the NYC Let 'Em Play movement to raise awareness of sports inequity in New York City high schools. Pictured here in his dean's office at Bronx Academy of Letters

At the center of it all: David Garcia-Rosen, a 20-year veteran of the Department of Education who has inspired his students to join him in the David-versus-Goliath fight. Their tactics over the years have been as bold and creative as Mr. Garcia-Rosen's use of school facilities (think: baseball in the auditorium) to provide his Bronx students the athletic opportunities that the city has denied them.

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Season 2Taylor McGraw