PATERSON, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — A New Jersey football team had to change the location of a game to give up home-field advantage Friday night because of gun violence.
As CBS2’s Brian Conybeare reported, the football team from Eastside High School in Paterson plays its home games a couple of miles away from their school. But because of shots fired near the field earlier this week, the team’s opening game against Clifton has been moved to their opponent’s field — at Clifton’s request, Paterson school officials told CBS2’s Christine Sloan.
When the Paterson Eastside Ghosts kicked off against the Clifton Mustangs for what was supposed to be a Paterson home game, the band was playing and fans were cheering on the Clifton side of the field.
But behind the Paterson bench, it looked like a ghost town.
“I think it’s very unfair,” said Paterson parent Dawn Hansford.
“I think it takes away from the kids,” said Paterson parent Bernard Combs. “It was their first home game”
Some Paterson parents and players were upset that the game was moved from Eastside’s home field to Clifton stadium because of the gunshots near the Eastside practice.
“I see it as unfair because they just switched it out of nowhere,” said football player Josuan Felancoso. “So I wanted it to be at our house instead of theirs, because they have the upper hand.”
But many Paterson football players say they understand the gunshots they heard Tuesday during practice are no joking matter.
“I got scared myself,” said football player Ivan Serrano. “I heard more gunshots than I ever heard before. It was about 4, 5’ish.”
Said Felancoso: “We were practicing and we heard gunshots on the street, but we didn’t stop because it didn’t bother us. So we just continued practicing.”
Paterson school officials said Clifton requested the change and rejected a Saturday afternoon kickoff in Paterson. On the sidelines, CBS2 asked Clifton High School athletic director Tom Mullahey why the change was made, but he refused to answer.
“It’s unfortunate that they had to move the game, but I think in this day and age, you have to think about the kids first,” said Clifton parent Mark Troller, “and if this seems to be the safer option at the time, then they made the right decision.”
The state-run Paterson school district has its own security, but recently there was a reduction in the force because of budget cuts.
CBS2 went by the district to talk to the superintendent and the police chief, but Public Relations Director Terry Corallo sent down an employee, who said, “They’re in an emergency cabinet.”
Paterson city officials would not appear on camera Friday night, but they did say there have been no changes in security at athletic events.
Paterson Councilman Luis Velez said he thinks the state should look into how the school district might be mismanaging money and “fund us the right way.”
In an email, Corallo said there have been “no changes in security” at athletic events and that “the shooting was on city streets.”
Paterson’s police director said the school district hasn’t asked for help on the field, but the city is trying to cut down on shootings by putting more cops on the streets and using new technology.
A 17-year-old ROTC student told Sloan he’s hoping to get accepted to college so he can leave the violence in Paterson.
“It’s just a really bad thing that we always have to look over our shoulder every time we go somewhere,” said Zaire Lee Dixon.
Clifton won the Friday night game on their home turf 44-13.