The Neumann-Goretti High School (Philadelphia) girls basketball team is one of the best in the country, with an 18-0 record and currently ranked first by USA Today. Two of the team's players emigrated to the United States from Nigeria, and one of them, senior forward Christina Aborowa, signed a national letter of intent in November to play at the University of Texas.
But hours later, UT coach Karen Aston received an anonymous email that stated the "African girls" on Neumann-Goretti were in the country illegally, and older than listed. The e-mail was also sent to other coaches recruiting Neumann-Goretti players, and its contents posted on various forums.
Well, PhillyVoice has looked into the identity of the anonymous accuser, and you'll never guess what they found:
What PhillyVoice has uncovered is that the email Aston received was not just from anyone. It emanated from an email address that is registered to the name and home address of another Philadelphia Catholic League coach, Archbishop Wood girls basketball coach John Gallagher, who through an attorney neither confirms nor denies sending the email to Aston "and others."
Additionally, Archbishop Wood has known about this — and has taken no action to date. The Archdiocese of Philadelphia has known about this — and has taken no action to date. [sic] This has reached the courts: A subpoena was issued by former Neumann-Goretti coach Letty Santarelli on Dec. 4, 2014, to Gallagher in a court case she has filed for defamation and slander. Documents in the court records verify the email address sent to Texas was registered in Gallagher's name and to his home address.
That's right, the coach of a rival Philadelphia Catholic League team that is also run by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia! According to Maureen Tobin, the host parent of both Aborowa and 6'9" junior Felicia Aiyeotan, in meetings with the Archdiocese, officials admitted they know Gallagher sent the email but haven't done anything about it:
"They acknowledged they knew Gallagher sent the emails to Texas. They acknowledged to me that they know about it. They did say that they are looking into it. But it's what they've been telling me since December. What I told them is that someone like John Gallagher shouldn't be in a position to mentor young people, and they agreed with me. But they haven't done anything about it. I don't know what more I can do. What I'm unhappy about is that they have two teenage girls being dragged through the mud here by one of their employees and I want it to stop."
This story involves two of the worst things about youth sports: asshole adults, and institutions seemingly less interested in justice than covering their own asses. In a statement to PhillyVoice, the Archdiocese asserted they do all appropriate paperwork and therefore the girls are their stated ages and in the country legally, but wouldn't comment substantially on the matter otherwise.
As for Gallagher, it sure seems like he's behaving maturely:
It's why it was hard to fathom before Neumann-Goretti's game at Wood on Friday, Jan. 16, Gallagher snubbed the Saints when they came over as a group for the pregame handshake, turning his back on them and folding his arms.
The rest of the PhillyVoice piece is an interesting story that details Neumann-Goretti's rise from an afterthought to powerhouse program, and the trials Nigerian kids face just moving to this country to go to school, let alone playing basketball. You should check it out.
Photo of now-closed Cardinal Dougherty High School in Philadelphia via Matt Rourke/AP