For the Blankenship family, a quiet basketball court in a neighborhood park is about the only place they want 10-year-old Ryan and 13-year-old Colin playing during a pandemic.
“Sports – it’s just a big part of their lives, it’s something they look forward to,” said Ken Blakenship of his two sons.
When Plano Sports Authority announced it would move its postponed spring season to the summer, the Blakenships asked for a refund of the fees they’d already paid in the spring.
Clare Blankenship said her step-sons have a family member who is immune-compromised. They said playing basketball during the summer would not work for their family.
“I don’t know how in the world you’re going to get 10-year-old boys to practice social distancing while they’re playing soccer and basketball,” said Clare Blakenship. “That makes no sense.”
The Blakenships said they paid $410 to PSA for spring basketball to cover the fees for their two kids and two other children who couldn’t afford to play.
But, the Blakenships said their efforts to communicate with PSA about refunds or even a credit towards a future season have gone nowhere.
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“We’ve tried emailing them, we’ve tried calling them, I’ve tried going down there and talking to them,” said Ken Blakenship.
“When you call PSA, you get the front desk and you’re going to be told you have to take that up with the basketball coordinator,” Clare Blakenship said. “You do not get a direct phone number. You get an email to that person. You send an email. You either get no response or you get a very generic response that does not answer your question.”
The Blakenships shared email blasts the league uses to communicate with families. PSA assured families it will take precautions to limit the spread of COVID-19, including running summer camps at 25% capacity, limiting spectators at games and adding sanitation stations.
One email sent on May 22 said, “We appreciate it is difficult to communicate with us right now. Please remember there are thousands of you and just a few of us.”
The email goes on to say, “PSA is a non-profit and self-funded organization. Our expenses did not stop on March 23. We built the buildings and we pay the mortgages, cleaning, electricity, and staff. PSA does not get any public money.”
Other non-profit leagues have pledged refunds or credits for a future season – including Allen Sports Authority where the Blakenship boys play baseball.
In an email to NBC 5, ASA’s Executive Director Ken Geest wrote, “The ASA Board of Directors voted unanimously to do full refunds to our membership. They felt we were all in this pandemic together and this is the way they felt we could help our families best.”
“If the ASA can do that and other sports associations, why can’t Plano Sports Authority do that? That doesn’t make any sense,” said Clare Blakenship.
NBC 5 tried to learn the answer from PSA, but league leadership did not respond to multiple phone messages, emails, even personal social media messages.
According to PSA’s website, it’s the largest youth sports organization in the state with more than 100,000 registered players in 2015.
The most recent copy of the Form 990 on file with the IRS shows PSA reported $12.5 million in revenue in 2017. It listed $5.5 million in salary expenses and $6 million in other expenses.
PSA has a VP of Marketing and someone close to PSA tells NBC 5 that person is the best contact to respond to questions from NBC 5. The VP of Marketing did not return phone messages. The same 2017 Form 990 lists his compensation at $192,691.
PSA’s website says it doesn’t offer refunds, but the Blakenships say the pandemic changed the game.
“My ask would be to work with the parents and ask them what would work for your family? I would take a credit. I’m not trying to gouge PSA or cause problems, but I just want them to do right for the families and what they need,” Clare Blakenship said.
The Blankenships started an online petition to ask the PSA for refunds or credit over its postponed spring season.
Since May 19, the petition collected more than 800 names.
“There’s a list as long as my arm of reasons why parents don’t want to play this summer or can’t,” said Clare Blankenship.
“It might seem like a small thing with everything that’s going on,” said Ken Blakenship. “But, $150 - that’s per kid. Some people have three or four kids playing. That’s a lot of money for some families.”