Kansas high school says it still hasn’t received prize money from Wichita Force football team

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WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — A Kansas high school band is accusing a Wichita football team of never paying them after the students won a Battle of the Bands competition in 2019. Burrton High School’s band won the competition, which advertised a $4,000 grand prize. But the band’s director says that after more than two years, the Wichita Force still hasn’t paid up and often ignores his messages.

“I thought back then, we probably didn’t have a shot at winning because we’re a small school,” said Mark Robinson, Burrton High School’s band director.

KSN obtained the original press release from the Wichita Force indoor football team from January 10, 2019. It says, “The Wichita Force, Wichita’s professional football team, will hold a competition throughout the 2019 arena football season; giving Kansas pep bands a chance to win up to $4,000 for their district’s endowment or foundation.”

In the summer of 2019, Burrton High School’s band won the contest.

“It was fun for the kids. They enjoyed it, and they were excited and really excited when we ended up winning the finals,” Robinson said.

However, Robinson says the Wichita Force never paid them the $4,000 grand prize. KSN obtained some of the back and forth exchanges between the team and Robinson.

“At first, they said, ‘We’ll pay you,’ and then they told us, ‘Well, we’ll come to your school and present it,’ but then that didn’t happen because they ended up being, having some sort of a conflict and then,” Robinson said.

The band’s director said he had other conversations between 2019 and this year, but every time, they never got the money. But then, in June, he says the Wichita Force invited them for a halftime check presentation for its game on June 26.

KSN obtained an email that shows the team canceled on them, saying, “Due to some changes in the schedule for the game for 06/26, we are not going to have time allotment to present the check during the game. We would like to mail you your check. What address does the check need to be mailed to?”

Robinson said he never got the money.

“Mostly just disappointed, mostly for the kids who were so excited about winning the prize and never seeing any of the money,” Robinson said.

KSN contacted Jeff Martin, the team owner and managing partner, Thursday morning. Martin did not want to answer our questions at that moment but said he would answer our questions in an on-camera interview later in the afternoon. Martin also said he would pay both Burrton High School and Clearwater High School, the runner-up, the promised prize money the team owes them. The team owes Clearwater High School $1,000.

KSN tried several times in the afternoon to reach Martin to set up an on-camera interview, but we never heard back from him. We texted Martin multiple times, emailed the team, and left messages on the team’s voicemail. Unfortunately, we could not leave messages on Martin’s voicemail because the mailbox was full. So, we stopped by the team’s office that afternoon. The door was locked, the lights were off, and no one answered the door.

“A lot of kids who participated are no longer in school. They graduated,” Robinson said about the band members who won the competition.

He said at the very least, they would like an apology from the Wichita Force, and at the most, the $4,000 prize money the team promised them back in 2019.

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