Pay to Play

Three inner-city Pop Warner football teams won national championships. Then they got the bill.

But the few dollars that players' parents gathered didn't cover the whole cost. The Dan Marino Foundation donated $5000 to the Northwest Falcons, Brown says, and the Miami Dolphins Organization gave $2500. The Greater Miami Pop Warner League presented each team with about $4000.

That was a lot of money to Northwest's Brown. According to him, Disney made more than enough profit on the deal. "Hey, we need that money more than Disney," he asserts.

After arriving in Orlando the teams continued to try to trim costs. Liberty City kids went offsite to eat buffet meals at Ponderosa and the Golden Corral. Brown says Northwest's coaches bought groceries and made the kids sandwiches. Florida City planned on commuting, but at the last minute the team was came up with the funds necessary to stay at a Disney hotel.

When it came to the gridiron, money problems were left on the sidelines. All three teams emerged as national champions. Liberty City stomped the Danbury, Connecticut, Trojans 26-6. Florida City beat the Brooklyn, New York, Mo' Better Jaguars 8-0. And Northwest overwhelmed the Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Tiny Indians 28-6.

Now the coaches are worried they may have stretched their communities' generosity too far. "The only reason that money was raised that quickly was because of the urgency behind it," says Johnson. "This here was a season's worth of fundraising. We can't keep knocking on people's doors."

tris_korten@miaminewtimes.com

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