HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — Hundreds of student-athletes and their coaches gathered in Hartford on Wednesday afternoon with a message for Governor Ned Lamont: “Let us play!”
After a roller coaster of decisions from the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference (CIAC) surrounding fall sports, players and politicians are now getting fed up with the back and forth.
Tuesday night, Republicans called on Lamont, asking for a clear benchmark on what the metrics need to be to let high school football play this fall.
But Lamont didn’t have much give.
“It’s probably worth pausing now and continue on with the practice and the conditioning, and hopefully, start something up in February or March,” he said.
With that answer deemed unsatisfactory, players took to the capitol with their masks to show the governor and the CIAC that they can follow plays both on and off the field.
“You see here, every player has a mask on today, and you walk around and every staff member has a mask on today,” said Bunnell High School football coach Tywan Jenkins. “We can follow these guidelines. Most of us are educators, most of us are highly educated; I think we can do this.”
Players held signs that read, “Let us play,” “This is our Hail Mary,” and “This is our pursuit of happiness.” They even started a petition that now has have tens of thousands of signatures asking the state to let them play.
“We were expecting 500 or 1000 signatures; we have 33,000 and counting,” said Daniel LaRosa, Haddam-Killingworth High School football player. “It blew up a lot more than we could ever have imagined. It’s been spreading all across the state.”
Athletes said they’re happy they were able to come together for one cause.
“I think it’s amazing how people are just coming together like this,” Hartford Owls quarterback and captain said. “It shows how much football really means to us, and we really need it.”
He said the Owls and a few other teams got together to practice over the summer.
“We all came together; of course, we were 7 feet apart, all of us, different sides of the field, working hard together. We knew we didn’t play each other in the real season, so we just said, ‘Hey, might as well work together.'”
Jenkins said coaches are aware of the restrictions players would and could need to play and that everyone was willing to follow them. He said they just need Lamont to give them a chance.
“Give us a chance; believe in us,” Jenkins said. “We did it when no one said we could do it in our country; they said Connecticut and New York were the epicenter [of COVID cases]…We did it [got cases down]. Trust us that we’ll do it again…I think that we can do this.”
On Aug. 26, the CIAC said fall sporting games, including football, would be played on Oct. 1 if supported by COVID metrics.
More than one week later, after conferring with the Connecticut Department of Public Health, the CIAC announced that high school, contact football was deemed high-risk and would not be played.
“We cannot ask our school districts, who have developed all of their back to school plans to be in alignment with DPH recommendations, to now go against that model when it comes to sports,” Glenn Lungarini, Executive Director, CIAC, told News 8.
Now, Senator Len Fasano (R) said the health department and the CIAC are reopening the door to talk about if there could be a season. He said that talk should happen within the coming days.
“My heart tells me to stand with the kids and let’s give them a chance to play,” said Democratic Speaker of the House Joe Aresimowicz. “The numbers are there; we are one of the best in the entire country we are less than one percent [positivity rate on COVID test], and they [Lamont administration] said if we get down below one percent, life would return to normal. Football is normal life to me!”