The Jamaica Government is now standing at attention, after recent announcement that two of the country’s star quality junior athletes have been ruled out of the prestigious Penn Relays Carnival coming up at the end of this month.
Calabar High School’s team captain at the recent Champs, Michael O’Hara had been caught in a tug-o-war between the nation’s two top telecommunications giants, Digicel and Lime, where ambush marketing “reared its ugly head.” The Wolmer’s standout Jaheel Hyde was almost simultaneously to O’Hara’s well publicised antics, named brand ambassador by warring rival, Lime.
O’Hara’s “Champs “bare it all” was seen as taking some gloss off the angry-in-response Lime’s publicity campaign at the 5day spectacle which they heavily sponsored.
Meanwhile, Digicel appeared to be “tapping their chest’’ on what could be viewed as a coup, beautifully executed.
Amidst the furore which ensued, enter the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA), who rules the world renowned Penn Relays, banning both athletes from participating. The organization regarded them as having been, “ recipients of benefits, owing to their athletic potential and performance, which are not available to all students on their schools' team.”
Employing the forum of the launch of the 2015 Jamaica International Invitational Meet (JII), at the Half-Way Tree Transport Centre in St Andrew, Neita-Headley, a concerned Minister with responsibility for Sports, Natalie Neita-Headley, spoke of plans to protect student athletes, while encouraging corporate entities to be involved in their continued development through sponsorship/support.
"Our athletes continue to make us (Jamaica) proud and I want to take this opportunity to say to all of them, a grateful nation salutes you,"
She continued. " I feel it is necessary at this time to intervene in the recent impasse that has occurred with our two high-school students – Michael O'Hara and Jaheel Hyde – as it relates to their appearances in the Penn Relays. Coming out of this, I expect and intend to work with ISSA, to work with the JAAA and other governing bodies in sport, to ensure that we develop policies to protect our student athletes.”
She ended her presentation to the gathering, with “It's important to note, also, that whilst the sponsors are to be thanked wholeheartedly for having taken this process from being just relaxation and competition, they have given our young people that competitive edge by giving so much towards the development of sport. I want to ensure that we do it in such a way that our athletes are protected, their futures are protected, while the sponsors are able to contribute in a meaningful way to their development and to sport in general.”