It's Pop Warner Football season in D.C. but the popular youth games are also a venue for military recruiters. The U.S. Army is a major sponsor of the games, in which 5- to 15-year olds play for division teams leading to a youth Superbowl.
D.C. Parks and Recreation oversees the games. Department officials say the relationship with the Army is about physical fitness and fighting child obesity. But not everyone is happy with the arrangement.
"You don't need the military to have a football game," says John Judge, an activist with Choices, a local outreach group of veterans who talk to kids in D.C. public and charter high schools about career choices besides the military.
"And even though they're technically not recruiting them they're getting to young people at an age when they shouldn't be having to consider these things."
Judge says public schools are easy pickings for military recruiters. The No Child Left Behind Act, for example, requires federally funded schools to release student information to the military. They use it to recruit children into programs like Junior ROTC or teens into the armed services.
But on opening day of the games at Anacostia High School many parents were pleased that the Army was involved.
"I like that the army have come out and give the kids a chance to maybe do something else with themselves besides play football," says one mother.
"Yeah, that's not gonna guarantee that they're gonna join the army," says another.
"Some kids, that's an opportunity for them," says a young father. "A lot of these kids will never get the opportunity again to do anything."
The D.C. Pop Warner games continue every weekend through October 17.
Mana Rabiee reports...