When I read AFN I particularly notice stories of accomplishment involving Ahwatukee youth. Articles highlighting young athletes, artists, forward-thinking students and their stories of personal accomplishment are the norm. In short, Ahwatukee is known for supporting its youth in many ways and the AFN has always been a part of that effort. I don’t recall ever reading such a negative critique of a local teenager for any reason than in the (“Neal’s no-show assembly an example of how out-of-hand high school sports have become,” AFN, Feb. 26) Brownie Points column by Jerry Brown. To print such harsh language and name-calling regarding such a well-mannered young man from our community is irresponsible and disappointing.

Many people have an axe to grind with the “seriousness” of high school athletics. Brown’s commentary used the assembly at Kyrene de la Esperanza for Davonte Neal inappropriately in your effort to remark on this popular topic of debate.

Neal lived here in Ahwatukee and his dad trained multiple teenagers from Desert Vista and Mountain Pointe who went on to rewarding collegiate careers. Now adults, they (and I) have been routing for Neal and looking forward to seeing him reach his goals, which include more than football.

Years of national press written about Neal constantly addresses his personal attributes and service to the community more than his being the fifth recruit in the country. He is also known to be a peer educator and an all-around fine young man. To call him a “diva” was a knee-jerk reaction at best. Did Brown simply fill in the persona of character from some movie or book about high school football fanfare gone awry?

Not every student-athlete will have press conferences, which is a good thing.

However, a few will and the level of support we provide them says a lot about our community.

That must have been a trying day for the Neal family. True concern for the situation could have triggered an article about the pressures on young student-athletes, the complexity of moving forward for high school graduates, friends going separate ways, etc. The opportunities for constructive insight were endless and you missed all of them. You used appalling terminology describing a young man that is widely known to be the very opposite. Your wish that Fox Sports had chosen not to cover a game earlier in the season makes me question the intent of Brown’s column. Who cares about the inner workings of Fox Sports coverage anyway?

Why praise Fox Sports so much? Perhaps for Brownie Points?

Local columnists tend to support the teens of their community, encouraging other kids to strive for their own goals. It’s an important message that can’t be understated.

Negative commentary, especially speculation, should be limited when critiquing the accomplishments of any high school student. To ignore this when writing about a teenager renowned for his service and character is questionable in nature. I really wish AFN had the foresight not to print such a passive-aggressive rant against an upstanding young member of the community.

Matthew Colby

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