Thoughts on Pop Warner Expulsion at WDW

13 Dec

You’ve probably read by now about the Pop Warner team members and their families who were kicked out of Disney hotels because of a fight among some of the players. There’s been a certain amount of cheering in the Disney fan community, as many feel that the Pop Warner kids are often unruly.

Now, I can’t comment on whether in fact Pop Warner week brings a greater level of unruliness and chaos to Walt Disney World, having not been around to experience Pop Warner week firsthand. I do know that cries of “zero tolerance” make me think back to the racial profiling allegations at Downtown Disney some months back, and make me wonder idly what, if any, subtle connections there are to the discussions that happened at that time (both among the fan community, and behind-the-scenes at Disney).

More clearly, I also do know that it’s bad for Disney’s corporate image to be kicking families out of their hotels at 3:00AM, under threat of police action, because of the actions of their kids’ teammates. From the Honolulu Advertiser:

Shortly after the fight, at about 3 a.m., the 70 players and family members from O’ahu as well as families from Baltimore were given written notices from the Walt Disney resort informing them that they had 20 minutes to vacate the property or Orange County sheriff’s deputies would be called to remove them.

The notice prompted panic. Entire families, including small children, were awakened and told to gather in the corner of a parking lot as emergency lodging arrangements were made, Kong said.

“It was frantic, trying to find us a place to stay. The little ones were scared just being woken up and pulled out of bed. They were crying and wondering what was going on,” said Kong. “We felt abandoned and helpless. We understand they have a no-tolerance rule, but we didn’t appreciate how they handled it.”

And let’s also take a moment to reflect on John Frosts’ words, from The Disney Blog:

To me a salient point that everyone has failed to mention in their coverage, is that Disney requires the teams and their families to stay on the Walt Disney World property if they are going to participate in the Pop Warner championship. It’s not like the teams chose to sign this agreement and stay with Disney. They were forced to sign to play in the championship.

This article in the Boston Globe from January shows the kind of pressure this puts teams and their families under to raise money for the trip and how much money Disney makes when teams aren’t allowed to stay at off property hotels that could save them a lot of money.

The teams didn’t choose to stay there. The families didn’t choose to stay there. And most of the families who were kicked out in the middle of the night probably didn’t even know about the fight that had broken out . . . because their kids weren’t in the fight.

Surely there wouldn’t have been any threat to public safety if the families whose kids were not involved had been allowed to sleep through the night. And it might have been better for business too. Once again, from John Frost:

To top it off, I’m sure this event is going to build some bad will between Disney and the residents of Oahu, where Disney is currently planning to build its first mega-resort not attached to a theme park.

10 Responses to “Thoughts on Pop Warner Expulsion at WDW”

  1. Eric December 13, 2007 at 4:15 pm #

    I also don’t like the fact that all of the families were kicked out. Why not just toss the rule-breakers out?

    What if one member of a Mousefest meet broke a rule? Would Disney kick out the entire group?

    It does seem there should have been a better way to handle this situation, while not excusing those who fought.

  2. sambycat December 13, 2007 at 6:03 pm #

    thank goodness no one saw me put hochberg in a choke hold.

  3. iJohn December 13, 2007 at 7:20 pm #

    Disney has an image they need to upkeep and fighting on the grounds of WDW is uncalled for. All sports teams needs to keep their players under control! Way to go Disney! I am proud of you!

  4. Biblioadonis aka George December 14, 2007 at 2:17 pm #

    I can’t see them kicking out us MouseFesters, since we didn’t sign anything and many of us may have stayed off property. But I can see the slippery slope as well.

    This dirturbs me, but in all honesty, if several players were ejected, could the team still play? It does seem harsh and I wish that Disney would have taken another approach to this.

    Since a legal document was signed, is there other recourse?

  5. Kitty-chan December 14, 2007 at 2:26 pm #

    I’d assume that the families hadn’t actually signed anything either, since they didn’t have any choice in where to stay. It’s probably like any other group meeting hotel block, the organizers (in this case I believe it’s Pop Warner as an entity, not the individual teams) enter into an agreement with the hotel. Usually when one checks in as part of a room block, one just gets the standard check-in agreement.

    I suppose there’s some possibility of legal recourse, but I’m not even sure who they’d sue. Disney, for kicking them out in a traumatic way? Or Pop Warner, for signing the contract which led to the expulsion? Or the teenagers who got into the fight that violated the contract, who presumably are juveniles so actually you’d have to sue their parents?

  6. John Frost December 14, 2007 at 3:56 pm #

    The story continues to get play in Hawaii with a TV channel over there posting about it today. Disney’s building up a goodwill deficit in Oahu that will need to be filled.

    Funny thing is, I think if they had just detained the kids involved and asked everyone else to check out by the normal time that day there wouldn’t have been this furor. We probably would never have heard about the incident.

  7. tpgoddess0103 December 17, 2007 at 2:01 pm #

    Wow. As the parent of a child who came one game shy of going to the Pop Warner super bowl event, this is an interesting development. Yes, let’s talk about how much money it would have cost us to go! It would have wiped out my entire 2008 travel budget to spend 9 days at WDW. Yes, I was a little put out that you had no choice on that matter since I have a local friend who would have housed us. And certainly, if our family had been kicked off grounds at 3:00am there would surely be bad feelings! I agree with John Frost – punish those who were involved, but leave the other families on the team out of it.

  8. Kitty-chan December 17, 2007 at 2:05 pm #

    MousePlanet has rumors about more details regarding the fight. If the rumors are true, it certainly was a bad situation, and very dangerous for the people nearby. And again, if these rumors are true, it’s all the more reason why the police on-site should have been focusing all their attention on the actual unfolding violence, instead of waking up little kids at 3AM.

  9. Tom January 8, 2008 at 10:47 am #

    This was not a spat, the Honolulu paper reported one of the kids was sent to the hospital with a broken nose. The point behind a no-tolerance policy is no tolerance. What if a second fight had broken out and someone had been more seriously injured? People would want to crucify Disney and the law suits would come pouring in.

    Also THESE PEOPLE CHOSE TO STAY AT DISNEY. The idead that they were forced is ridiculous, Disney sponsors the event to make money. Why sponsor an event if all the money is going to go the La Quinta Inn on I-drive? These people had the choice to go or not to go.

    While I agree that greater tact should have been used (such as arranging transportation via Magical Express rather than putting them in the parking lot), the ones at blame here are the parents who did not control their kids. Why hasn’t anyone asked what Pop-Warner aged kids were doing in the arcade at 1:00 a.m. unsupervised?

  10. Jennifer January 8, 2008 at 11:17 am #

    Tom, thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment!

    I’m guessing there’s some interesting conversations underway among Pop Warner officials and families. Certainly I don’t think anybody here believes that it’s a good thing for kids to be out at 1AM popping each other in the nose. But what many of us question is the priorities expressed by Disney’s actions that night. Was it really crucial for security forces to wake up toddlers at 3AM? I think not, and will be interested to see what Pop Warner ends up planning for next year’s events.

    And sure, people weren’t forced to go to the event . . . but if my kid got into the Pop Warner Super Bowl, and couldn’t participate unless we stayed at Disney, I’d certainly feel under a significant amount of social pressure, both from my kid and his teammates.

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