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Pa.’s fight over crowds at high school sports isn’t as simple as it seems | John Baer



On the surface, the battle between the legislature and Gov. Tom Wolf over high school sports might seem simple.

It’s no surprise. They battle over everything. It’s easy to grasp. Lawmakers want high school sports now. Wolf doesn’t want high school sports this year.

And it follows a familiar Pennsylvania COVID theme. Democrat Wolf is an overreactive duck-and-cover, my-way-only tyrant. The Republican legislature is thick with don’t-tread-on-me science-deniers willing to put lives at risk.

Especially when it comes to football in an election year in a rural state where (without apology to Texas) “Friday Nights Lights” is a cultural touchstone.

So, lawmakers pass a bill giving schools authority to make their own sports decisions, including crowd size. And Wolf says he’ll veto it.

He’s got until Monday to do so. Or change his mind and sign it into law. Or allow it to become law without his signature. That’s the process.

But there’s more going on here than process.

This fight is different than dozens of earlier Wolf v. Legislature spats. This time, lots of Democrats join Republicans in opposing the governor. In fact, more than enough to help override a veto – unless, of course, D’s don’t believe in a bill they voted for.

Wolf’s never been overridden. Says he “can’t conceive” of being overridden now.

We’ll see.

But the issue is scrambled. It slips around like a fumble in the mud.

Wolf, in early June, released guidelines for high school sports. Then, in early August, Wolf recommended no high school sports until 2021.

Then state Health Secretary Rachel Levine stressed that Wolf has “no plans” to ban high schools sports, and decisions to play rest with schools. And Wolf told schools districts and the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association, “You do what you want.”

They did. In the PIAA’s District III, covering 10 Central Pennsylvania counties, for example, 90 of 93 schools with football teams are set to play a 2020 season.

So, why pass legislation to give schools sports controls they already have and use?

Three reasons: it’s an election year; the bill allows schools to set crowd size; and it’s an election year.

GOP leaders see the issue as a winner, in a community/family/tradition sort of way; a positive to push (say it with me) in an election year.

Oh, and in the scrambled category? Crowd-size limits set by Wolf (250 outdoor; 25 indoor) are unconstitutional, according to Western Pennsylvania U.S. District Court Judge William Stickman IV. This past Monday he ruled such limits violate First Amendment rights to peaceable assembly.

Wolf is appealing the ruling and seeking a stay to keep crowd limits in place. Meanwhile, high school football kicks off across the state amid reports of out-sized crowds showing up at games in Western Pennsylvania.

(Stickman also ruled Wolf’s stay-home and biz-shutdown orders unconstitutional. Other courts have sided with Wolf. A Republican I know said of Stickman, “Yes! A judge who finally gets it!” A Democrat I know noted Stickman was never a judge on any court until President Trump put him on the federal bench last year.)

The ruling against Wolf and the BIG 10 Conference decision to reinstate its collegiate football season won’t help the argument against high school sports.

But the maddening truth behind all this is lingering doubt around the basic question – is it safe to play?

You’d think almost certainly for non-contact sports. But football? Basketball?

As a parent of sons who played these sports in high school and college, I know well the weight of the game, the totality of engagement from athletes that age. It is simply a love that grips heart and soul.

Who wants to take that from their child?

Yet, if play presents any chance of contracting a disease with possible long-term damage? Who wants that risk for their child, on top of routine risks involved in sport, and life in general?

Too much pandemic guidance, both medical and governmental, is seen as motivated by or tarred with politics. Too much appears redundant or arbitrary.

The result creates lack of trust and uncertainty about what’s right. It hands high school athletes and their families another worry – in an already-worrisome time.

John Baer may be reached at

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Why I Won’t Stick To Sports: Tom Oates –




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COVID-19 continues to impact HS sports, 21 football teams shut down in Week 4




The 2020 high school football season continues to be ever-changing as circumstances related to COVID-19 have impacted the state.

In what will be an abbreviated season, with just six regular-season games, some teams have been behind the eight-ball all year. While some have had no issues, others have had games canceled or postponed.

Two teams – Clearview and Ridgefield Park – have yet to play their first games.

Following is a list of teams currently shut down as well as games for this week that have been cancelled. You’ll also find a list of games added to this week’s schedule.

Check back for updates as the football staff receives additional information throughout the week.


Barringer: The team is in the second week of a 14-day quarantine after its Sept. 9 game against Livingston. Livingston reported positive COVID-19 tests among its coaching staff soon after that game.

Bayonne: Athletic programs were set down after an assistant coach tested positive for COVID-19. Bayonne schools have not reopened for in-person instruction and it remains uncertain how long sports will be shut down.

Belleville: The team is in the second week for a shutdown after a player tested positive for COVID-19.

Butler: Out of an abundance of caution, Butler is in the second week of a football quarantine due to COVID-19 concerns.

Delran: The shutdown of athletics continued as additional positive tests for COVID-19 were found.

Gloucester Catholic: It was determined though contact tracing that several players needed to be self-quarantined due to individuals at the school testing positive for COVID-19. All extra-curricular activities have been cancelled until Monday.

Hanover Park: The team is in Week 2 of a shutdown believed to be COVID-19 related.

Hamilton West: The school has canceled all sports though Nov. 2 because of a second positive COVID-19 test within the school.

Immaculata: Sports are in the second week of a shutdown, although athletic director Tom Gambino couldn’t confirm the reason behind cancellations in a memo sent to parents last week.

Iselin Kennedy: The team is in the second week for a shutdown due to COVID-19 circumstances. All sports have been set down until Oct. 29.

Kinnelon: The program has been shut down for two weeks for a second time due to COVID-19 circumstances. The team has not played since losing to Hanover Park on Oct. 9 and is not scheduled to resume play until Nov. 6 at Whippany Park.

Livingston: The team is in its second week of a shutdown due to at least one positive COVID-19 test within the program.

Middlesex: The team will miss a second straight game after a player had tested positive before its Oct. 16 game against South River. Its next game is Oct. 30 against Spotswood.

Nottingham: Due to possible exposure to someone who tested positive for COVID-19, the football team will quarantine for 14 days. It is the only team within the athletic program to quarantine. This is Week 1 of the shutdown.

Park Ridge: All sports teams are sidelined through Oct. 26, athletic director Christopher Brown said. Games will resume Oct. 27. The cancellations wiped out Saturday’s football game against St. Mary (Ruth.).

Ramapo: All athletic teams are shut down until Saturday, Oct. 31 after multiple positive tests were revealed, according to athletic director Ron Anello. The school has shifted to online learning.

Secaucus: All fall sports have been shut down through Oct. 22. The school has haulted in-person learning after individuals tested positive for COVID-19. This is the second week of the shutdown.

Trenton: After playing against Nottingham last Saturday, Trenton has canceled its next two games out of caution.

Wallington: The team is in the second week for a shutdown due to COVID-19 circumstances.

West Essex: The team is in Week 2 of a shutdown after three students among the school’s student body tested positive for COVID-19. The school canceled its entire athletic schedule for two weeks.

Westwood: Athletics will remain shut down for two weeks as the district transitions to remote learning, according to a letter sent to parents on Sunday


Friday, Oct. 23

  • Westwood at Pascack Hills
  • Seacaucus at Becton
  • Montclair at Livingston
  • Cresskill at Butler
  • Hanover Park at Parsippany
  • Clifton at Bayonne
  • Wallington at Wood-Ridge
  • Immaculata at Hudson Catholic
  • Iselin Kennedy at Scotch Plains-Fanwood
  • West Side at Belleville
  • Parsippany Hills at West Essex
  • Sterling at Delran
  • Pequannock at Kinnelon
  • Middlesex at St. Thomas Aquinas
  • Barringer at Bloomfield

Saturday, Oct. 24

  • Trenton at Pemberton
  • Notre Dame at Nottingham
  • Ramapo at Bergenfield
  • Park Ridge at St. Mary (Ruth.)
  • Gloucester Catholic at Cumberland


Friday, Oct. 23

  • Roselle Park at Wood-Ridge, 6
  • Parsippany Hills at River Dell, 6
  • Shore at St. Thomas Aquinas, 6
  • West Side at Hudson Catholic, 7
  • Warren Hills at Parsippany, 7
  • Seneca at Sterling, TBA

Saturday, Oct. 24

  • Notre Dame at Pemberton, 11
  • Clifton at Montclair, 1
  • Demarest at Bloomfield, 1

Thank you for relying on us to provide the journalism you can trust. Please consider supporting with a subscription.

Kevin Minnick covers the West Jersey Football League. He can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @kminnicksports

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Sports on TV: Wednesday, October 21, 2020




Wednesday, October 21
(All times Eastern)
Schedule subject to change and/or blackouts

7 p.m.
ESPNU — Mississippi State at Louisiana State
8 p.m.
SECN — Florida at Auburn
5:25 a.m.
ESPN2 — Samsung at KT
8 p.m.
FOX — World Series: Tampa Bay vs. LA Dodgers, Game 2, Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas
8 p.m.
FS2 — CONCACAF League: CA Independiente vs. Antigua GFC, Preliminary Round, Panama City, Panama
9 p.m.
CBSSN — UEFA Champions League: TBA, Group Stage (taped)
10 p.m.
FS1 — Liga MX: Monterrey at Tijuana
6 a.m.
TENNIS — Ostrava-WTA, Antwerp-ATP & Cologne-ATP bett1HULKS Championships Early Rounds

Early Thursday

6:30 a.m.
GOLF — EPGA Tour: The Italian Open, First Round, Chervo Golf Club, Pozzolengo, Italy
5:25 a.m.
ESPN2 — Kia at Hanwha
6 a.m.
TENNIS — Ostrava-WTA, Antwerp-ATP & Cologne-ATP bett1HULKS Championships Early Rounds

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