Football protest

Delta High School student-athletes hold up signs during a peaceful protest in Delta on Friday, Sept. 11, 2020.

For the past week, student-athletes in Colorado, particularly football players, have awaited word from the Colorado High School Activities Association (CHSAA) on the fate of the football season — whether the football season returned in the fall was something CHSAA revisited Tuesday night. After the organization announced its decision on Wednesday to keep the football season in the spring, the high hopes that sprung for the prep athletes were dashed.

The players have heard from CHSAA. Now, they want CHSAA to hear them.

“I don’t really like it,” said Dakotah Dunn, a junior lineman at Olathe High School. “I’d rather play right now.

“It’s going to be way colder,” Dunn added. “It’s going to affect a lot of things in the season. You have to consider wrestling season, a bunch of people are going to be cutting weight, and then hopping into a sport where you need to gain that all back. It’s just not going to be a great setup.

“We should be playing because Utah and Texas have already been playing and they haven’t had any bad outcomes with it; so let us play.”

Dunn’s sentiments were echoed during a peaceful protest in Delta on Friday where around 60 student-athletes, parents and alumni gathered to share their wishes to have a fall season.

Players from Hotchkiss, Delta and Olathe participated in the protest holding signs that read, "Let us Play,” and another that listed seniors on the Delta football team.

A few Western Slope teams, like Montrose and Olathe, started playing 7-on-7s this past Wednesday after coaches formed a club that would allow the teams to legally participate in football activity.

Players on the Hotchkiss football team, so far, haven’t had such a luxury and are eager to get back on the field.

“What happens when flu season comes around? They can shut it down just like that,” said Hotchkiss junior lineman Coulson Hollembeak. “We just want a chance to play now while we can.”

The players have support, evident by the number of passersby who honked or waved as they drove by the crowd of students. Also, several parents, former teachers and alumni were on hand at the protest.

“I think that it will affect quite a few of the kids,” said Carmen, a parent of a DHS student and band participant who hasn’t been able to perform at football games. “Some of them have scholarship situations, and they might be bypassed because [colleges and universities] have already selected players from the other states that have allowed the kids to play. I just feel like it’s not fair with the percentage of COVID we have present in our communities across Colorado.”

“CHSAA is dropping the ball on this,” said Jay Belt, former coach and teacher at DHS. “Rural communities especially.”

Belt singled out the lack of representation of the Western Slope on CHSAA’s board of directors. According to information provided on chsaanow.com, of the 16 board directors listed, just one represents the Western Slope: Luke DeWolfe of District 1 and athletic director at Steamboat Springs High School. DeWolfe represents the San Juan, southwestern and Western Slope region.

“Anything we proposed would never get passed, and that’s sad,” Belt said. “We have kids that are three-sport athletes. Our kids last spring got cheated. That’s what’s hurting the kids.”

Dwain Bush, president of the DHS alumni foundation, questioned if Gov. Jared Polis and CHSAA are on the same page.

After CHSAA Commissioner Rhonda Blanford-Green sent out a statement Monday night regarding a potential return on contact sports this fall, Polis on Tuesday said the state was open to the idea of football returning.

However, later that night, the board voted unanimously to make no adjustments to the calendar.

“Let’s get on the same page,” Bush said. “How hard is that? You guys (Polis, CHSAA) are three miles apart.”

Bush believes variances that CHSAA is currently seeking have played a part in the ongoing discussions between CHSAA and the governor’s office. According to a press release from CHSAA on Friday, the organization stated it was made clear to Blanford-Green that variances she sought from the COVID-19 response team would not be given, which was information that was shared with the board of directors before their vote Tuesday night.

Following a statement from Polis on Thursday, it was clear the COVID-19 Response Team had changed its stance, CHSAA stated. Blanford-Green was reportedly set to meet with the governor’s office on Friday to discuss the variances Polis said would be expedited.

Details of the variance are not known at this time.

On Friday, Polis tweeted “we are currently working with CHSAA to approve variances for football and field hockey, and we will work together to develop guidelines or variances for additional sports at a later date and indoor sports when they can safely be played.”

Additionally, CHSAA announced it would resubmit modified variances and safety implementation plans to the COVID-19 Response Team for football, spirit and volleyball “in hopes they will be reconsidered.” Variances for gymnastics, soccer and unified bowling were also submitted.

Colorado, currently, is one of 17 states that plan to play the football season in the spring.

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