Petition Formed For School To Release Student Athlete Whose Mom Battled Cancer

Posted at 6:46 PM, Oct 12, 2016
and last updated 2016-10-12 20:04:18-04

A petition has called on administrators at Mt. Juliet High to send the necessary letter to TSSAA to allow a student to play football at his new school.

The, 16-year-old Gabriel Magalei, is known to friends and family as Bubba, and has been playing football his entire life.

His dad is a youth football coach and his family has always dreamed of a full-ride for their son. Bubba is a running back and safety.

"USC," he said with a smile when asked about his college dreams, "it's always been my favorite team since I was little."

But last year misfortune hit home.

"My wife battled cancer last year and bills piled up and we couldn't afford the home anymore," said Kit Magalei, Bubba's father.

The family is moving to Davidson County and though Bubba was living with his uncle in Wilson County, he's leaving Mt Juliet High to be with them.

"It wasn't an easy decision for us, we loved Mt. Juliet," Kit said.

Now, they're butting heads with Bubba's old school.

"Our sympathy goes out to this family," said Wilson County Schools spokesperson Jennifer Johnson, "we were unaware of a lot of things going on personally with them."

But administrators won't send the necessary letter to TSSAA to allow Bubba to play football at  his new school, East Nashville Magnet.

"It's not just a letter releasing this student or allowing him to play," Johnson said, "it is a letter saying that he did not leave for athletic reasons."

Which she says, according to the coach, Bubba's dad implied in one conversation.

"I'm a coach," Kit said, "we get heated when we're talking. It had nothing to do with that. I think the rules are made to protect coaches, to protect high schools and theres nothing to protect kids."

Now a petition has more than 1200 signatures online, calling on Mt. Juliet to help the family and reject the TSSAA requirement giving the former school the final say.

"Maybe that's subjective," Johnson acknowledged, "maybe it needs to be explored by the TSSAA but we're just trying to play by the rules."

In the meantime Bubba just wants to get back to what he loves: playing a game that helps him chase his dreams.

"I just want to play," he said with a shrug.