After he was benched for being homeless, this high school athlete was offered housing and is cleared to play
Jamal Speaks is a stellar high school football player. He does well in school and has committed to play for Temple University after graduation.
He is also homeless, a fact that a D.C. Public Schools principal and the District of Columbia Interscholastic Athletic Association held against him.
On Sept. 15, Speaks suited up for Ballou’s game against Anacostia — a game that would be watched by talent scouts from Temple University. But before he could step on the field, Principal Willie Jackson told him he was ineligible due to his residency.
Speaks’ had been deemed ineligible to play the previous two years because his mother is a resident of Maryland. However, according to a Washington Post report, Speaks filed the proper paperwork last spring to declare he was homeless and sleeping on friends’ couches, allowing him to attend Ballou STAY Opportunity Academy as a D.C. resident.
The D.C. Interscholastic Athletic Association still ruled him ineligible to play, even after he proved his homeless resident status. He appealed the decision with the D.C. State Athletic Association, which cleared him to play on Aug. 29.
When he was benched on Sept. 15, Speaks’s teammates refused to play for nearly an hour, according to CBS News. Amid scrutiny from the media, a D.C. councilmember and the public, he was allowed back for the next game against Roosevelt. NBC News4 reported DCPS cleared him to practice and play with the team while they work with the Interscholastic Athletic Association to resolve the matter.
IM BACK IN ACTION
— Jspeaks (@bossmanmall) September 20, 2018
A local nonprofit offered Speaks housing.
“After hearing that Jamal was experiencing homelessness and at risk of losing the ability to pursue his dream of attending college and playing football, I knew that CHGW had to help,” said Covenant House Greater Washington CEO Madye Henson in a statement to NBC News4. Speaks stayed at CHGW for a weekend and continues to work with a case manager.
A GoFundMe Speaks set up for himself has raised almost $32,000 as of Oct. 15. On the page, Speaks wrote that he appreciates all the love and support. “I will not let you all down,” he wrote.
Speaks was back on the field for Ballou’s Sept. 28 comeback win against Theodore Roosevelt.