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Homeless D.C. high school football player eclipses GoFundMe goal

September 25, 2018

After a whirlwind of events this month, Jamal Speaks can return to the football field. He has also received the help he needed to keep going.

Speaks, a homeless high school senior in Washington, has raised more than $20,000 in donations after his story of being kept from playing varsity football hit the public. It easily surpassed his goal of $5,000.

Ballou High School principal Willie Robinson prevented Speaks, a senior at the Ballou STAY Opportunity Academy, from playing for Ballou’s varsity football team in a Sept. 15 game against rival Anacostia because of “residency concerns.”

Speaks became homeless through a series of events that included his father passing awayand he started spending nights on friends’ couches. Although one D.C. athletic governing body ruled that Speaks was eligible to play, another advised Robinson of the residency concerns, and Robinson made the decision to hold Speaks off the team despite protests from his teammates.

Since then, though, D.C. Public Schools said they were working with the DCSAA to resolve the matter.

“In the meantime, the student is allowed to practice and play with his team,” DCPS said in a statement.

Speaks has verbally committed to play football at Temple University in Philadelphia next year. A Temple recruiter came to the Ballou-Anacostia game to watch Speaks, the day he was benched.

In addition to his GoFundMe donations, Speaks was offered housing by the youth shelter Covenant House Greater Washington.

“I had some personal challenges that has landed me on hard times, however I am not letting that stop me because I don’t believe in excuses,” Speaks wrote on his GoFundMe page. “All I am looking for to show my greatness, and that goes beyond football. I appreciate all the love and support. I will not let you all down, and I want to thank my football team, my community, and others for standing beside me.”

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