Bobcats-Juan-4About 200 hundred members and supporters of Pop Warner’s East Los Angeles Bobcats youth football and cheer team attended a community picnic Sunday at Ruben F. Salazar Park in an effort to restore peace after their activities have been disrupted by gang violence.

The Bobcats and Bulldogs, another Pop Warner team, have both faced restrictions on practices and games around their community due to a fatal gang-related stabbing that took place at a Shakey’s Pizza Parlor in Monterey Park following a game last October.

Read: Rivalry starts early for East L.A. Classic

Los Angeles Unified School District has removed the Bulldogs from their practice spot at Garfield High School while the Bobcats have been stripped of their permit to play at the school.

Los Angeles County supervisor Gloria Molina has suspended the Bobcats’ license to practice at Salazar Park in attempts to reduce gang violence. “Right now we’re dealing with a very real threat of retaliation. We want to make sure that all the patrons and all the people who enjoy the park are going to have an opportunity to enjoy it free of violence,” Molina told Bobcats supporters, reported the Los Angeles Times.

Lt. Holly Francisco with the sheriff’s homicide bureau told the Times that those involved mentioned both football and gang affiliations. Jose De Jesus Ruiz, 23, is now accused of fatally stabbing Patrick Raymond Ortega, 25.

However, many parents and fans disagree with the actions taken against the teams, and say it’s unfair that now hundreds of 6 to 14-year-olds have to pay the price.

“The organization has not done anything wrong,” said Bobcats’ President Sylvia Romero. “None of our parents, coaches or children were directly involved in [the altercation].”

Bobcats players and supporters gather for a picnic at Salazar Park. Photo by Erik Sarni.

Bobcats players and supporters gather for a picnic at Salazar Park. Photo by Erik Sarni.

Through protests and the recent community picnic, supporters want to show the children they’re doing everything they can to get them back on the field.

“East L.A. is a tough community to grow up in, but if you take programs like ours away from the kids you’re just sending them back to the gang-infested neighborhoods,” said Romero whose two kids are Bobcat alums. “We’re just trying to provide something good for our kids.”

According to Romero, Los Angles County Department of Parks and Recreation posed the Bobcats with several conditions to continue on a probationary period for one season. Conditions include changing the team name and colors and having four Sheriff’s deputies present during the team’s activities held at County parks.

An agreement has not been made but Romero hopes to meet with the department and find a solution well before the 2013 season starts in July.

6 Responses

    • Avatar
      Connie Carlos

      Yes Gloria… let the Bobcats play. I have been a fan for over 45 years, watched my nephews play as cubs and watched them develop into well mannered respectable citizens. In all those years, there were NEVER any incidents. DO NOT place blame on an organization who does nothing but help the underpriviledged youth in the community. SHAME on you Gloria if you do!

  1. Avatar
    Please let them play

    What does changing the name and colors have to do with allowing the kids to play? They’re little boys that wear blue and white. Is the Bobcat name more menacing than Bulldogs or Wolf Pack? Will changing the colors and name make people forget that they are an East L.A. Team, who play in the heart of the East L.A. barrio? Those are ridiculous stipulations. Molina also wanted the team to make changes to their Board members and coaches, which they did. And, not only did she ban them from practicing or playing at Salazar Park,,, she’s banned them from every single L.A. County Park. They have nowhere to practice, unless they go to Orange County. These kids can barely get transportation to an L.A County park, much less Orange County. The Bobcats were at Shakeys that night having a fundraiser, when the violence broke out between two rival gangs. Not two rival teams! The Sheriff’s Department had a suspect in the killing, and made an arrest. No parents or coaches were involved, nor arrested. There was talk that no one was cooperative with the Sheriff’s Dept. that night. That is incorrect. Witnesses did come forward and gave names. Many others didn’t cooperate, because they didn’t see anything. They were busy rounding up their kids and running for the door. They saw the initial words being exchanged, but ran to save their kids. Your article states, “Lt. Holly Francisco with the sheriff’s homicide bureau told the Times that those involved mentioned both football and gang affiliations.” What does that even mean? Who are those involved? The suspect? What do you mean by “mentioned”? Does that mean someone said there were gang affiliated people in attendance, and that there were also football affiliated people present? If so, then yes, that’s a true statement, they were both there. The Bulldogs and Bobcats’ coaches, Board and adminstrative staff have spoken to each other since the incident. There is no bad blood, no intention of retaliation. Everyone just wants the kids to be able to play football in East L.A., as they have for over 40 years. Let them play Gloria.

  2. Avatar
    Pati J

    My daughter has been cheering for the Bobcats for the last 5 years. In those years that we’ve participated, we’ve never seen any gang issues.

    What we have seen is LA County Sheriff patrolling the park, keeping an eye on our kids to make sure that the local gangs don’t encroach on their practice time at Salazar Park. I’ve never seen a problem – if I had, I would have pulled my daughter long ago.

    Why do we have to pay extra money that we can’t afford to have the Sheriff’s department do what they already do? Isn’t it there job to protect and serve our kids and family?

    I think that Gloria Molina is using this as an excuse to push us off of Salazar Park. I’m not sure why – she should be supporting this great organization which focuses on teamwork and high academic standards (the players and cheerleaders must present strong grades in order to play, as well as providing scholarships for those who have a GPA of 3.4 and above).


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