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Athletes Being Penalized Again In What Can Only Be Considered A Money Move

If you have ever doubted that we are a litigious society, well, here’s your answer.

Because this decision by the New York State Public High School Athletic Association to delay the start of fall high school sports for a month – to Sept. 21 – as well as to cancel all regional and state championship tournaments, can only be described in one way.

It’s a *&#^@(!* mess, and based on the fear of litigation.

Don’t get me wrong. I greatly respect the work that the NYSPHSAA and Executive Director Dr. Robert Zayas and I know they have the interests of all student-athletes at heart. But I, for one, believe there are greater forces at large here pulling the strings for fear that if one of our athletes contracts the coronavirus, some parents will be in court the next day.

Rich Thomaselli Commentary

That’s the only thing I can think of to why the state would truncate the fall season and take away the state championships. You can read about the details here and what the contingency plan is if sports can’t kick off on Sept. 21.

But this decision is wrought with issues and questions. Off the top of my head …

* The litigation potential is the most pressing. I’m not a lawyer; I don’t even play one on TV. But …. why can’t the state have parents sign a waiver allowing their children to play and absolving the state of liability? If they want their kids to play, they sign. If they are fearful, they don’t sign and the athlete will have to skip the season.

* While in many states the number of positive cases of COVID-19 is surging, the infection rate in New York right now is 1 percent. If that. Instead of waiting around to see if it rises here as the weather gets cooler in the fall, why not start the season now while the infection rate is still low?

* Kids are playing summer league games in many sports as we speak. Local softball players are heading to Virginia at this exact moment for a national tournament. Is there that much of a difference between the club sports and high school that is forcing this one-month delay?

* What about our multi-sport athletes? If the fall season can’t start on Sept. 21, the state said it will move to a condensed year starting in January in order to get all three seasons in, albeit shortened seasons. But those dates overlap – winter sports would start in early January and end March 13, fall sports would follow by starting on March 1 and ending on May 8, and spring sports would start April 5 and end June 12. That’s a two-week overlap of winter and fall sports, and more than a month overlap between the end of fall sports and beginning of spring. Frankly, that’s killing multi-sport athletes especially at smaller schools where you see a lot of two- and three-sport athletes. Now we are forcing them into a difficult this-or-that decision. And I don’t even want to get into what ramifications there are for our great student-athletes being recruited to play at the next level.

* And what about our dedicated coaches and referees? Both are at a premium. We have seen a dramatic loss of coaches and officials in all sports at every level over the last decade or two. What happens during those overlap seasons if it comes to that? What happens if we don’t have enough coaches or enough referees?

As large and as diverse as these committees were designed to come up with the ultimate decisions, something tells me this wasn’t thought through as fully as they want us to believe. Something also tells me there are larger forces at work here as the decision on how to reopen schools still looms.

And, once again, like clockwork, inevitably, who gets caught in the middle and gets hurt?

The kids.

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