A high school track and field coach in New Hampshire was dismissed from his post after refusing to tell his team they are required to wear masks when they compete.
Pembroke Academy track and field coach Bradley Keyes, who has coached at Pembroke for four years but did not teach, asked the school if New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association’s guidelines requiring masks were guidance or a mandate.
After being informed that Pembroke and fellow competing schools agreed to the mask mandate, Keyes issued a blog post on Saturday encouraging others to tell the school that they opposed the policy, while noting that he sent an email to the school’s athletic director that read:
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 [sic] bulls***.”
As noted by WBZ, the mask guidelines were installed by New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association. The Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association also mandated that track athletes “wear cloth face coverings/masks per EEA guidelines, including always covering both the nose and mouth.”
The CDC recommends that everyone wear masks while “in public settings, at events and gatherings, and anywhere they will be around other people.”
On Monday, however, Keyes posted another blog entry that read:
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.
Keyes went on to enumerate what he feels are the most important elements of participating in high-school sports:
- 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 also shared with 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 about his concerns over the mask mandate, saying: “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.”