A New Hampshire high school track and field coach was fired after refusing to tell his team they had to wear masks when they competed.
Pembroke Academy track and field coach Bradley Keyes, who coached at Pembroke for four years but was not a teacher there, asked the school if the New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association’s guidelines requiring masks were guidance or a mandate. Informed that Pembroke and fellow competing schools agreed with the policy, on Saturday Keyes issued a blog post encouraging others to tell the school they opposed the policy, while adding an email he sent to the school’s athletic director that stated:
I’ll come straight to the point. I will not put kids on the track and tell them to run any races while wearing masks. I will not stand up in front of the kids and lie to them and tell them that these masks are doing anything worthwhile out in an open field with wind blowing and the sun shining. These insane policies are robbing kids of once-in-a-lifetime opportunities for no valid reason other than irrational fears and going along with the sheep. … Fire me if you must.
Keyes called the guidelines, “Senseless, irrational, cowardice bulls***.”
As noted by WBZ, the mask guidelines were set by New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association. The Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association also requires track athletes “to wear cloth face coverings/masks per EEA guidelines, including always covering both the nose and mouth.” The CDC recommends that people wear masks “in public settings, at events and gatherings, and anywhere they will be around other people.”
On Monday, Keyes posted another blog entry that stated:
I have been fired. I am not surprised. I made my choice to speak out. They made theirs.
My only regret is not being able to be there everyday to teach and encourage all of my athletes. I have just one parting thought that came to me yesterday that helped clarify this situation and why I made the choice I did.
High school sports in their ideal should:
- instill a joy of physical activity
- show the value of hard work and a long-term view towards self improvement
- teach teamwork and cooperation
- help learn how to face both success and failure with dignity and grace
One of the fundamental parts of all of this is learning to play by the rules. The rules supposedly put in place in order to create a fair and level playing field, to let everyone know what is expected and allowed, and then to let the best man, woman, or team win.
Except now we are adding arbitrary, senseless, ill-thought rules.
I have had a few coaches thank me for speaking out — for saying what they would like to say. Some have even stated that they will be telling their athletes that there’s nothing that can be done if their masks happened to fall down or off at the start of the race. That is how many coaches are going to deal with these new mask rules – they are going to tell their athletes to ignore them, to cheat.
We now have some coaches telling athletes to play by some rules and ignore others. Then we’ll have other coaches who tell their athletes that the new mask rules suck but they’ll still need to play by those rules.
So now you’ve got an un-level playing field and blatant violation of rules. And that leads to the real crime in this situation – an undermining one of the cornerstones of high school sports and the lessons we hope to teach these young adults.
I won’t be a part of that.
Keyes told WBZ:
I backed them into a corner. What I wanted was to make a point. I was hoping the word would get out some and maybe there would be enough reaction that down the road, maybe in a few weeks or later, some of the restrictions would be changed. I just think people haven’t pushed back and I decided it was time to push back. … I wear a mask where I have to. I’ll wear a mask when I go into stores or any private business that wants me to. Based on what I read honestly I don’t believe they do much good.
Track team member David Testerman told WBZ of his concerns over wearing a mask: “It gets you really tired especially when it gets up to 80 degrees soon and it’s going to be really hard for us to keep doing what we live to do.”
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