State Attorney General jumps in on high school football debate
The hotly debated issue of when and how high school football should resume in Louisiana took another turn on Monday afternoon when Attorney General Jeff Landry sent a letter to LHSAA executive director Eddie Bonine expressing his desire that high school football should stay on schedule for an October kickoff.
AG Landry discusses potential legal hurdles that he feels may be hindering a return to play and offers some insight as to how best navigate them.
High school football has been deemed a high-risk activity and a slow approach to resuming activity has many parents, coaches and players wondering what is taking so long to get back on the field.
The latest continuation of Phase 2 restrictions has kept state high school football teams from full padded practices and therefore delayed the wind-up to the start of the season which was targeted for Oct. 8.
Below is a copy of the letter provided by Mr. Landry's office to WBRZ:
I want to thank you and the members of the Louisiana High School Athletic Association for your very thoughtful response to the COVID-19 crisis and high school sports. Certainly when this process began several months ago, there was real reason for concern. However, times have changed as has our understanding of this virus. It is time for our decision-making process to change as well.
I was surprised to hear that legal liability concerns are playing a major role in your decision. I think those concerns are unfounded. Today, football operations are ongoing at every college and university in our State. The risks inherent in playing football are constant at all levels of competition, including high school. Yet, statistics from the CDC show that the younger people are, the less likely this coronavirus will negatively affect them – should they become infected at all. If anything, this means high school players are less at risk than college players.
What’s more: there is no evidence to suggest young people are more likely to get this disease on their football fields than they are at their schools or in their neighborhoods. Legally proving where people, who are largely asymptomatic, contract this disease is beyond current scientific methodologies. As our neighboring states move forward with these realities in mind, allowing our students in Louisiana the same opportunity to play the game they love is not an unreasonable act.
I also want to note that participation in high school football is voluntary. As you well know, football can be a hazardous sport with injuries. Those who choose to play it know of these dangers and accept those threats – many because they find the values of the sport far outweigh the risks involved. Every year, parents sign waivers to allow their children to participate. With medical staff and ambulances common sights at football games, these parents are well-aware of the risks; but they are also aware of the accomplishments their children achieve during a hard fought game. A simple adjustment in your waiver language to reflect any COVID-19 risks should ensure parental consent and dispel legal concern. If you need help drafting this, contact my office and we will assist.
Finally, I ask you and all concerned to consider the impact further delay will have on these young student-athletes. My mom always said, “Idle minds and hands are the devil’s workshop.” For so many of our youth, sports is a way out of dire circumstances. Football puts them on a track for success off the field and in life. I can only imagine the number of Louisiana youth who have and will further fall into self-destructive behavior and habits without the outlet of high school football. Depriving these young people of the purpose, discipline, and integrity they develop between the hashes will irreparably damage their lives.
Mr. Bonine, it is time to turn on the Friday Night Lights.
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