After Massive Protest in Hartford, CIAC & DPH to Reconsider How to Play Football Safely

On Wednesday, over a thousand football players, coaches and parents from across Connecticut convened on the steps of the State capital to protest the CIAC decision to cancel, and not reschedule, the high school interscholastic football season.

Before heading to Hartford a contingent of GHS football players, coaches and parents gathered at Bible Street Park where First Selectman Camillo stopped to wish them well.

“They were headed to Hartford to rally at the state capital to ask the governor and Dept of Public Health to give it another look and reconsider the decision about canceling the football season,” Camillo said on Thursday during the Board of Selectmen meeting.

“They do have a case,” Camillo added. “Thirty-five states are now playing and there haven’t been any problems. Players will have a shield. Coaches will have masks. People are worried about crowds, and certainly you just require them to wear masks.”

“I think it’s critical that they get out there and play or just try,” Camillo said. “If something happens you can shut it down, but pushing it off to the spring creates more problems. And hopefully we’ll be done with this, but we could be in the middle of a second or third wave as history showed in 1918.”

Wednesday’s protest in Hartford was peaceful, as teams, which typically are pitted against each other in competition, came together for their shared cause.

All appeared to be wearing masks as they chanted a thunderous, “Let us Play.”

The CIAC announced last Friday that they had voted not to hold fall interscholastic football in the typical 11×11 format.

In their statement they said, “Without DPH support, the CIAC can not move forward with a full contact season as it would place superintendents and boards of education in the impossible position of acting against the recommendation of a state agency.”

CIAC did not say whether 7×7 would be adopted, though the Dept of Health had recommended switching to that style of football which eliminates tackling and line play.

Since the summer, CIAC had been holding out hope that if low Covid positivity numbers continued, they might increase risk week by week, moving closer to normal full contact play.

Both players and parents were taken off guard by the CIAC’s announcement. They had been conditioning successfully all summer.

A petition demanding CIAC and Dept of Public Health allow 11 on 11 football this fall was up to 33,735 signatures as of Thursday.

On Saturday football players held a statewide protest in West Hartford, which served as a warm up to Wednesday’s protest at the capital.

On Wednesday night Greenwich Football Tweeted, “The birds have landed at the Capital. What a great turnout from the state of CT! So many players from so many teams. Brotherhood at its finest.”

Lamont said on Wednesday that the CIAC decision was based on CDC guidance. He told Channel 12, “I want to see football being played. I also want to see it being played safely. The reason we have the lowest infection rate in the country is because we’ve erred on the side of caution.”

Nevertheless, he said he’d asked the DPH to sit down with CIAC, which they will do on Friday, to get the league’s best ideas on playing safely. Lamont pointed out that in Delaware football players will play wearing masks. In Massachusetts the football season is postponed until spring.

“Around the country there are health departments saying football is high risk,” he added. “Maybe we can mitigate the risks to allow these kids to play safely.”

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