#LetUsPlay: Paris, IL athletes, coaches join statewide movement

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PARIS, Ill. (WTWO/WAWV) — Members of the Paris community gathered at the Edgar County courthouse Saturday to show support for athletes unable to play a regular fall season due to the coronavirus pandemic.

#LetUsPlay rallies were scheduled this weekend across Illinois, most notably in Chicago and at the state capitol in Springfield. The Paris event drew a sizeable crowd in the small community and included speeches from several coaches and some athletes.

Paris football coach Jeremy Clodfelder organized the local rally noting it was not political in nature, but rather to “to bring awareness and support our athletes that aren’t getting to play and have those opportunities being threatened.”

Logan Bartley, a Paris High School junior and member football team, said it’s hard not being able to play the sport that he loves.

“We’ve done everything we’ve been asked to. We’ve worn masks, temperature checks, space out and social distanced. We’ve done it all and we keep getting let down. We’re really just unsure so we’re just fighting for a chance.”

The Illinois High School Association earlier this year postponed fall high school sports such football, cheer and girls volleyball to the spring; however, student-athletes and parents have pushed for those sports to return sooner rather than later. 

Neighboring states, including Indiana, resumed fall sports with little or no changes.

Creighton Tarr, Paris High School Athletic Director, said they want state officials to make the decision that’s in the athletes best interest.

“At the end of the day, yes we wished we started our season in august just like Indiana. But at the end of the day we just want an opportunity to play. Maybe that means football is in march. Maybe that means basketball won’t have a postseason. We don’t know exactly what’s going to happen. But what we do want is the opportunity to play,” Tarr explained.

IHSA Executive Director Craig Anderson recently penned a letter to Gov. JB Pritzker asking for the IHSA board and Sports Medicine Advisory Committee to “resume control over determining the presumption of IHSA sports and activities.” He noted there have been no discussions or proposed timelines for the return of fall sports.

“It is important to note that, under the leadership of Governor Pritzker, Illinois has attained one of the lowest COVID-19 infection rates in the country,” Anderson said. “Additionally, several surrounding states have successfully conducted sports categorized as medium and high risk here in Illinois, and we believe sports and activities are safest when conducted under the IHSA safety protocols by school personnel.” 

Pritzker held firm to the position that high school football would not return this fall, saying at a news conference Wednesday that he’s no scientist, but he knows how to listen to the experts and follow the latest data. 

“Under no circumstances will I put children and their families at risk to those claiming that putting your child in danger is about personal choice. I say this is a pandemic,” Pritzker said. 

Masks were strongly encouraged for anyone attending the Paris event. The IHSA also encouraged mask use at events throughout the state.

The IHSA this week waived the 2020-21 season limitations for winter, spring and summer sports that would have restricted those sports to no more than two contests per week.

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