A youth football league in Kansas already reeling from ongoing fights and arguments has canceled its season following a fatal shooting, saying it’s “clearly too dangerous” to continue playing this year.
The 2020 Wichita Youth Football season was scuttled following a shooting late Wednesday at Stryker Sports Complex that left Marquell Nolen shot multiple times by a suspect on the west side of the stadium’s bleachers. Nolen, 31, of Wichita, was later pronounced dead at a hospital, police said.
“This was not a random incident and was not related to games being played or officiated,” police said in a statement. “It is believed Nolen and the suspect are known to each other and are involving in an ongoing feud.”
The latest instance of violence, however, was too much for league officials to bear, prompting them to shut the season in a statement issued Thursday.
“As a league, we can no longer safely continue with the 2020 season, as it is clearly too dangerous for the children and families of this city,” the statement read. “Our pleas and desires to change the culture of youth football in Wichita have consistently fallen on deaf ears.”
The statement also cited prior fights, as well as issues with littering and arguments on a weekly basis as reasons for the cancellation.
“It is our genuine hope that as a city, as a people, as a culture, we can and will do better,” said the Capital Sports Institute, which runs the league.
An investigation into the shooting was ongoing Friday. No arrests had been made and detectives were looking for a suspect who fled the stadium on foot after Nolen was shot, police said.
One of the suspect’s shoes – a distinctive yellow sneaker – was left behind at the scene before a youngster at the stadium picked it up and left with their family, KAKE reported. The gunman was also wearing a bright yellow sweatsuit, photos released by police show.
Youth football games with 12-year-old athletes and soccer matches were underway at the time of the shooting, police told the Wichita Eagle.
Football coach A.J. Bohannon wrote on Facebook that the aftermath immediately following the shooting was the “scariest moment” of his life, saying his son ran across the field with tears in his eyes while asking if his brother was OK, the newspaper reported.