By J. Coyden Palmer
Amidst COVID-19 concerns, parents, players and coaches throughout the state are planning a protest on Saturday, September 19 in Springfield and Chicago asking for Governor J.B. Pritzker to allow the IHSA to continue fall sports instead of waiting for the Governor’s approval.
The action is being taken after the Big 10 conference announced that it will be allowing football to return on October 24. Nationwide there has been a movement to get athletes back on the field.
Pritzker has been adamant about not opening up youth sports until the science tells him it is safe to do so. He said he does not mind people protesting his decision, but believes he is doing the right thing by keeping IHSA sports sidelined.
“We’re not talking about professional sports or high college athletes [Division 1], we’re talking about kids and school districts that don’t have the monetary resources to do this safely,” Pritzker said. “We are talking about 800 school districts and over 4,000 schools. They do not have the capability to create a bubble or do the rapid testing on a daily basis like professional or college sports do.”
Dr. Michael Lee from Rush and Dr. Ngozi Ezike, the director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, backed the Governor’s decision and were standing behind him when he made the announcement that high school sports were not going to start soon.
“Under no circumstances will I put children and their families at risk to those claiming that putting your child in danger is about personal choice,” Pritzker said.
“This is a terrible and unprecedented moment in our country. Living together in a free society means neighbors protecting each other, so that we can all enjoy freedom and safety. This deadly virus should remind us that there are some individual choices that have enormous life changing impact on others.”
Pritzker commented that “While parents might choose to send their children out onto the playing field, I can tell you that someone else who becomes ill because of that decision, wouldn’t call that your personal choice.”
“I want our kids back on the playing field or on the ice as much as anyone, and we’ll get there. When the doctors say it’s safe. Until then, let’s focus on keeping our schools and our businesses open, and on keeping everyone safe. Let’s be kind to one another too.”
In the meantime football coaches from around the area and their supporters are planning a large protest on Saturday at the James R. Thompson Center at 100 W. Randolph. There will also be protests taking place in Springfield and throughout the metro area.
The IHSA Board of Directors met virtually on Monday, September 14, 2020, where the Board approved several updates to the IHSA Return to Activities guidelines. They also sent a letter to Pritzker asking for more control over when the guidelines could be implemented.
“We have preached that this school year will be fluid and the changes made by the Board today are a good example of that,” said IHSA Executive Director Craig Anderson. “With support from the IHSA Board of Directors, I issued a letter on September 10 to Governor Pritzker and Deputy Governor Ruiz, that seeks permission for the IHSA and its Sports Medicine Advisory Committee to resume control over determining the resumption of IHSA sports and activities.”
The IHSA said it is not organizing any of the planned protests this weekend but is asking that people do so peacefully.
The surrounding states are all participating in fall high school football on some level, even though the starting dates have varied.
Those who are against high school sports resuming contend that if a person who is asymptomatic has the virus, they can infect dozens of others without even knowing it. There is also concern that the athletes may take the virus back home to people who are more vulnerable to death if they contract COVID-19.
Sports officials have also not been involved in any of the return to play conversations and it is unknown if the IHSA officials, who are all independent contractors, will even come and officiate games.
As one of Chicago’s Black newspapers with a citywide distribution our mission is to provide readers with factual news and in-depth coverage of its impact in the Black community. The Rona Reports are stories of Black resilience in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. This Rona Report is made possible by The Journalism Fund, which is a Robert R. McCormick Foundation collaborative grant.