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Feb, 2021

Let Them Play CA rally loud and proud near CIF-Southern Section office

By Loren Kopff • @LorenKopff on Twitter

On Jan. 15, there were approximately 150 rallies throughout the state and it’s unknown how many rallies took place last Friday. The Los Alamitos rally originally was to be in front of the CIF-SS office. Instead, it made its way to the intersection of Katella Ave. and Los Alamitos Blvd., a block from the CIF-SS office. Towards the end of the rally, numerous ‘Let Them Play’ signs and other posters were laid at the front door of the CIF-SS office.

“There are people who are in charge of the national level and then there are people who are in charge of the California level,” said Stephanie Born, a Los Alamitos resident and the organizer of this rally. “I got involved in this group because I saw some postings about it. My son was a senior who graduated in 2020 and he lost out on his track season. It was absolutely devastating to him and the rest of the team because they had worked so hard. They have kids who go to state every year, so it was crushing. I have a child, who’s in the eighth grade, who is going to be a freshman at St. Anthony High School and I don’t want to see her lose out on cross country and track.”

This was one of three rallies within the CIF-SS last Friday with the other two being in Riverside and Mission Viejo. Earlier last month, one parent started a Let Them Play CA page on Facebook and immediately it exploded like wildfire. Since then, parents, coaches and students throughout the state have flooded the page with posts, comments or photos. As of this past Tuesday, there have been over 55,000 members of the Let Them Play CA group and over 5,600 photos have been posted. Other rally organizers have done Facebook Live videos or could have done Zoom meetings, according to Born.

“I think throughout the state, folks are upset at the governor’s erratic orders and they recognize there’s no science behind the idea that the sports get shut down,” said Donald Wagner, Orange County Board of Supervisor, Third District. “So, we’re trying to call attention to, frankly, the silliness of that order.”

Because of the rain, which let up in time for the rally, Wagner didn’t have any expectations as far as the turnout. He said he has seen rallies that were smaller than the one in Los Alamitos as well as ones with larger crowds. There were approximately 100-150 people at the Los Alamitos rally and during the one-hour or so event, motorists were honking their horns in support of athletics resuming. Among those in attendance were Cerritos High first-year head football coach Brad Carter, one of his players and three parents. Carter was hired roughly a year ago but has yet to coach a game at Cerritos.

“I believe in the cause,” Carter said. “I do feel like we can have kids play safely. I know there are a lot of different opinions about it. But based on what I’ve been able to read up on the situation, I feel like other states have done it safely [and] I think we’re at the point where we know what the threat is. I feel like we can do it safely when supervised by high school coaches and administrators. But I thought the rally was awesome; I thought there was a good crowd. They were really passionate. There were a lot of different high schools represented. I know I saw a lot of different Orange County schools there and I think they were all there for the same reason. They want to see their kids on the field.”


High school athletics and other youth sports have been closed in the state since last March while most states have been able to play. California is one of 14 states, plus the District of Columbia, not to have had high school football played in the fall of 2020. At the youth level, many California travel teams have gone to other states to play and have been posting their accounts on social media.

“We’ve been patient, but it’s time to get things going faster,” Born said. “It’s been moving at a turtle’s pace. Student-athletes have been committing suicide. Some have become new fathers because their sports have been shut down and for some kids, sports is what makes them go to school.”

Wagner said he did a three-day conference in Sacramento earlier last month where Newsom and the Sacramento health care agency were trying to shut the conference down, complaining that it was going to be a super-spreader event.

“The director of the Sacramento health care agency went to the board the next Tuesday and said this is a disaster and we’re going to have Sacramento shut down for weeks,” Wagner said. “An hour and a half later, the governor opened Sacramento up. So, at the end of the day, the pressure is getting to the governor because he’s not following the medical science. He’s following the political science. He sees the recall coming down the tracks at him. He sees groups like this around the state saying, ‘I want my kids back out on the fields because they are better there, they are safer there, they are healthier there’. He’s responding to that.”

There has also been a survey that went out to over 1,900 coaches and athletes to document the data of teen suicides and new fathers. Of course, there are those who still believe postponing youth and high school athletic events is the best thing.

“I would tell them that there are school districts that have reopened and there hasn’t been a community spread that everybody feared,” Born said. “So, I would say look at the science, look at rates of community spread; that they’re low when schools reopened. Let’s go by that, the science. All schools can reopen safely. A lot of teams have been practicing safely already in other areas, so let’s go ahead and do that.”

If high school sports are unable to open in the next few months, Born said she thinks the children would be absolutely crushed and she feels very bad for the seniors because she knows what her son went through, who had one league meet last March before the schools were shut down.

The latest county tiered status the CIF releases every Tuesday shows all but four counties in the purple, or widespread status. That means that cross country, golf, skiing/snowboarding, swimming and diving, tennis and track and field are the only sports allowed. Cross country is the only fall season sport and this past Monday, following the lifting of the stay-at-home order, the CIF-SS allowed cross country to begin. Of course, it is still up to school districts to make the final decision.

Although Wagner believes that if parents think it’s safer for their kids to stay home, they should stay home, he has been frustrated about Newsom’s response that he doesn’t respect ‘those people’ and that Newsom has lumped everybody in and said that everybody has to follow the rules he sets. Wagner also said that the science shows that the elderly are the ones at risk, not the kids.

While Wagner couldn’t estimate how many more rallies across the state there would be before high school sports would return, he said that the pressure needs to stay on Newsome and the recall effort needs to continue.

“He’s going to do what he does,” Wagner added. “I hope he would do what he should do, which is look at the science, allow us to open up and target the folks that are most at risk.”

 

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