BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — Chants of "let them play" rang out at Foothill High School on Thursday morning as students protested athlete ineligibility at the school.
Dozens of students gathered at the front of the school to peacefully protest after three basketball players were told they could not play during the Trojans' season opener on Monday.
All three players were coming from different schools and beginning their first season at Foothill. Two of them, Elijah Seals and Warren Steingle, transferred from California schools outside of Kern County. The California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) said they have not received the proper paperwork and that's why the two were not allowed to play. The players say they sent their papers in.
The third player, Gabriel Bossi, hails from Chicago and has been declared ineligible for the current season. The CIF would not get into specifics, but they did say Bossi is ineligible because of "undue influence." After moving from Chicago to Fresno, Bossi came to Kern County and has been living with Foothill basketball head coach Wesley Davis III and his family.
"So I've been told because I'm not his blood parent or his legal guardian... that makes it an undue influence situation," Davis said Thursday. He says Bossi grew up in South Side, Chicago, and says the two were connected by a family friend. Davis says that connection was made because of the work his family's organization, The Wendale Davis Foundation, does for at-risk youth.
He says he took Bossi in, unaware that there could be repercussions for the action when it comes to athletics. As Bossi's legal caregiver, Davis has submitted an appeal of the ineligibility decision and is hoping to hear about an appeal date next week. He says that if punishment needs to be distributed, he should be punished instead of the students.
The Kern High School District says these situations are case-by-case, but if a student lives in the area of the school, they are generally eligible in the district's eyes. However, the CIF has a different process for determining eligibility, and Bossi's case is now in the hands of the CIF.
The Trojans' next game is set for Tuesday, December 4 against Ridgeview at home.