New Jersey remains on path to play football, most high school sports this fall

Governor Murphy – at Monday’s COVID-19 press briefing – expresses support for allowing remote-learning students to participate in high school sports this fall. Source: screenshot, New Jersey Office of the Governor YouTube channel)

by Mike Pavlichko

While the NJSIAA has said it would give an update later this week on plans to play high school sports this fall, the idea appears to remain on track, and still has the backing of New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy and at least two other other high-ranking government officials.

At his regular COVID-19 press briefing this afternoon, Murphy said he and State Sen. Paul Sarlo (D-Bergen) and Assemblyman Benjie Wimberley (D-Passaic) – both fellow Democrats – all have discussed and are in agreement on the issue of allowing student-athletes to play this fall, even if they are learning remotely full-time, as Murphy last week allowed districts to do.

“I am encouraged that most of our fall sports are played outdoors,” said Murphy. “As we know, outdoor activities are incresingly safer than indoor ones.”

The Governor also said outdoor sports provide a greater opportunity for social distancing among parents, spectators and among student-athletes.

Murphy says the NJSIAA will have the final say on whether fall sports can – not will – be played. Individual districts are free to choose whether to play or not, and the NJSIAA has recently said it supports whatever districts choose.

Today, the NJSIAA tweeted that it “appreciates the continued support of Governor Murphy, Senator Sarlo, and Assemblyman Wimberly. With their input, as well as continued guidance from our roster of experts, we look forward to announcing updates to our plans later this week.”

Those plans are widely believed to be more contingent in nature, in case statistics or other events cause a change in the NJSIAA’s thinking about the safety of playing fall sports.

“We know the NJSIAA is taking extremely seriously the need for protecting everyone in our school communities and will only pursue a sports schedule if they feel the proper health and safety requirements can be met,” said Murphy.

As for eligibility for those districts who plan on full-time remote learning this fall, Murphy added: “We are making it clear that whether a student-athlete is participating in remote learning or in-person instruction, their ability to participate with their team will not be altered in any way.

“Whether that student is seated in a socially-distanced classroom or at their kitchen table does not matter. They are a student of that school and they can play for that school,” said Murphy.

View the comments from Murphy, Sarlo and Wimberly below.

Governor Murphy, State Senator Paul Sarlo, and Assemblyman Benjie Wimberly – the head football coach at Hackensack – address the media on the topic of high school sports at the Governor’s routine COVID-19 press conference. (Source: New Jersey Office of the Governor YouTube channel)

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