Embattled Youth Football Team Wants to Stay in Park Despite Security Concerns

A fatal stabbing at a youth football game pizza party prompted officials to ban team from using a park

By Jason Kandel
|  Friday, Mar 29, 2013  |  Updated 10:12 PM PDT
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A fatal stabbing at a youth football game pizza party prompted officials to ban the team from using a park unless they pay for extra security. Michelle Valles reports from East LA for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on March 29, 2013.

Michelle Valles, Bobbie Eng

A fatal stabbing at a youth football game pizza party prompted officials to ban the team from using a park unless they pay for extra security. Michelle Valles reports from East LA for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on March 29, 2013.

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A youth football program that has called an East LA park home for nearly half a century is under fire after a fatal stabbing off-site prompted LA County officials to bar the team from using the park unless it provides security.

The East Los Angeles Bobcats say the restrictions to use Ruben F. Salazar Park are unfair. They say the many working-class, single-parent families can’t afford the $774 a day for added sheriff’s deputies.

"We need to come up with a solution on how we can keep our program going," said Sylvia Romero, the president of the Bobcats, told NBCLatino.com. "We will keep fighting until the Bobcats' name is cleared and that the organization is not gang related."

County officials, fearing retaliatory violence against the Bobcats, pulled the team’s permit to practice at the park and said that they could return only if the team provides security and changes its name and blue and white colors.

"The Bobcats permit was cancelled for safety reasons," said LA County Parks and Recreation Chief Deputy Director John Wicker in a statement.

The ban went into effect after the fatal stabbing on Oct. 6, 2012 of a man at a Monterey Park pizza parlour after a game.

The stabbing followed an argument between two male fans in their 20s, whom police said were associated with rival gangs.

The ban potentially put the season -- with team sign-ups starting in March -- at risk for hundreds of children.

Many parents credit the program with keeping their kids out of gangs.

"Gangs are a way of living around here," Alva Diaz, a Bobcat mother, told NBCLatino.com. "Many kids in gangs die or are in jail; we don’t want that for our kids..."

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