Tentative agreement reached for predominantly black school joining white athletic league

Posted: Friday, August 03, 2001

CHICAGO -- Officials have reached a tentative agreement that could bring an end to the long wrangle over admitting a predominantly black school into a mostly white athletic league.

St. Sabina Elementary School pulled out of the Southside Catholic Conference after some members said they planned to forfeit games played at the school because of safety concerns.

Jim Lago, chancellor of the Archdiocese of Chicago, declined to release specifics Wednesday night but said the plan would deal with the possibility of racial taunts and of teams forfeiting games rather than traveling to St. Sabina.

''We fully plan to begin the season as one united group,'' said Hank Lenzen, who will step down soon as the conference's chairman.

Members of the conference voted in May to deny membership to St. Sabina, saying they were concerned for players, parents and coaches traveling to the neighborhood for games. St. Sabina officials argued the decision was fueled by racism. The conference later voted to admit the school, but some coaches said they would forfeit games played at St. Sabina.

The Rev. Michael Pfleger, St. Sabina's pastor, withdrew the school's teams from the league when other conference members refused to sign an agreement not to forfeit the games. He later agreed to a last-ditch meeting.

''We're all in agreement here tonight,'' Pfleger said Wednesday night.

Lenzen said details of the agreement would be released at a meeting of the conference Friday night. Representatives of the 21 member parishes will vote on it Thursday.

Lenzen expected it to be approved.

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