Consider what we are teaching young people from the following cases involving Pop Warner football, which have arisen lately. In Florida nine men were arrested last week for running a gambling ring centering on youth football. The arrests came after an 18-month investigation and the findings were shocking. Authorities learned that South Florida Football League coaches and team affiliates would set bets before the games. 30,000 kids play in those Leagues. Their ages range from FIVE years old to 15. When the Super Bowl for this youth League played, the pot was more than $100,000. They were betting in the open, exchanging money in the stands, clearly visible by other parents, coaches, the kids, and police officers working the events who did nothing. They bet on individual plays, developing scores, and dozens of other side bets. An ESPN "Outside the Lines" undercover crew caught it all on tape.
How did betters attempt to influence the outcome? By bribing and paying the young players. Players would paid thousands of dollars after a particularly pleasing game. I saw one young player interviewed who described a gambling coach walking up to him on the sideline before a kickoff return telling him what he could earn for a touchdown return, and then paid him on the sideline when he broke free for 99 yards.
Gambling rings, bounties, ex-con coaches, local governments sweeping it all under the rug—if you didn't already know, Pop Warner football is pretty messed up.
Update (Nov. 5): Got an email from the Pop Warner people:
The league in this story is not affiliated with Pop Warner. They are an independent organization and we would appreciate it if you would correct the story by taking out the reference to Pop Warner. If you have any questions please let me know.
National Director of Scholastics and Media Relations
Pop Warner Little Scholars, Inc.
We've changed the headline to clarify.