Flag football tournaments have become popular throughout Western Pennsylvania, but over the weekend a special one was held to celebrate Juneteenth, and the Steelers were a part of it.
The Steelers helped sponsor the Juneteenth Open Invitation Flag Football Tournament at Mellon Park on Saturday and Sunday, a two-day tournament that featured 40 plus teams from all over Pennsylvania, as well as Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia and New Jersey and is part of the WPA Youth Fest.
The purpose for the tournament was two-fold, a fun-filled football fest and an avenue to teach kids the history behind Juneteenth. And a little rain early on didn't dampen the enthusiasm.
"This Juneteenth celebration came to us via B Marshall, the guy who put together the whole Juneteenth celebration here," said Rashad Colvin, the President of the Pittsburgh NFL Flag League. "He came to us with the idea of having a youth fest. With the youth fest, he wanted to create different events. Since we are known for the flag football aspect in Pittsburgh, he came to us and said he had an idea for the tournament and would we be interested. We jumped on the idea and thought it was wonderful.
"This is the second year for it. The first day all the teams played up to three games. Sunday was a single elimination playoff style tournament. We partnered with the Steelers to help cheer the kids on, call some plays, do things with the youth to make it even more fun.
"It was a lot fun, and it was competitive."
Local teams participate in the Juneteenth Open Invitation Flag Football Tournament
Punter Pressley Harvin III, offensive lineman Dan Moore Jr. and safety Donovan Stiner were on hand to encourage the kids, help teach them, and give back. Harvin said he learned about giving back at a young age from his father, Pressley Harvin II, who passed away this past year.
"Every athlete should take time and give back," said Harvin. "We were that kid at one point in time. We had someone in front of us that came back and paid it forward, showed us, motivated us, and kept us on track when we saw someone who was living the life you dreamt about having. That is the biggest thing for me. I always have a desire to uplift a young person and give them that one spark they might need to change their life. We don't know how impactful we can be just by being there. I always look forward to these things. Showing kids they can use sports to change their lives just like I used sports to change my life."
"My dad worked at early head start back where we are from," said Harvin. "When he first started, he worked with single moms, young moms, and some of those same kids are ones I grew up with. The next thing I know everyone knows my dad because of the values he had. I could see the impact that he had on them. He was a transportation manager, not an athlete, but no matter what you do in life you can have a positive impact on kids."
The tournament was a part of multiple events throughout the city to celebrate the week of Juneteenth, and the hope is that it continues to grow so the knowledge of the holiday itself grows.
"The kids will see the signs, the black, green and red signs that talk about Juneteenth," said Colvin. "They will ask what is Juneteenth? That conversation will be sparked. We will explain to people why we are doing this, why we are celebrating.
"The bigger it grows, the more the word will be spread. We are expecting over 500 kids, and that can be 1,000 parents, so the more it grows, the more we educate. This is a start to teach them about it."
And it's icing on the cake was to have the Steelers be a partner with it.
"It's huge," said Colvin. "Last year the kid's faces melted with players there. They were so elated. When we marketed it this year, just seeing the Steelers involved made kids want to come. That helps grow all of it, grows the idea. It makes them want to come even more. There are tournaments everywhere, but having the Steelers involved, having them there, it's huge. It was great for the kids to meet them. Seeing their excitement was amazing.
"It's a way to incorporate Juneteenth with fun, with celebration. The more we can see it, the better. Football reigns supreme in Western Pa. Having that with a Juneteenth celebration can help spread the word and help the kids get involved. You see football, the celebration, the Steelers. It will spread the word and let more people know about the history of the holiday.
"In addition, when the kids see the players, it allows them to know the players are involved and it inspires the kids to be a part of it. They meet them, talk to them, and are inspired to be like them. And then they know they can give back to their community when they get to that point."