CHICAGO (CBS) — The Illinois High School Association this week said it planned to go ahead with high school basketball practices last month in defiance of Gov. JB Pritzker’s new guidance that places the sport in a high-risk category – but Chicago Public Schools athletes will not be taking to the court.
In a letter to CPS parents Thursday, CPS Chief Education Officer LaTanya D. McDade and Executive Director of Sports Administration David Rosengard said girls’ and boys’ elementary and high school basketball will be postponed until further notice.
Only competitive cheerleading, competitive dance, girls’ and boys’ bowling, and boys’ swimming and diving are set to go ahead for the winter.
Practices for basketball had been set to go ahead on Monday, Nov. 16, and the IHSA on Wednesday said it intended to go ahead with them as planned despite the warning from the governor. But CPS said in part in its letter:
“While the Illinois High School Association (IHSA) has not removed high school basketball from its winter sports calendar, Governor Pritzker and IDPH have determined that basketball presents a greater risk of COVID-19 transmission and is not safe to play this winter.
“Our district has a rich basketball tradition, and we know that this is not the outcome so many of our students, parents and coaches wanted to see, but Gov. Pritzker, IDPH, and the Illinois State Board of Education have made it clear that basketball should not be played this winter as it presents a significant risk to participants and members of the school community. We are following their guidance and committed to supporting all sports that can proceed safely this winter.”
The guidance from Pritkzer’s office was developed by the Department of Public Health and public health experts, and reflects the high risk of indoor contact sports. It also reflects new research related to COVID-19 in sports, sports-related outbreaks in other states, and the second surge of the pandemic pummeling the state.
“We can’t ignore what is happening around us – because without action, this could look worse than anything we saw in the spring.” Pritzker said in a news release Tuesday. “It’s with that in mind that today, my administration is releasing our updated guidance for youth and adult recreational sports in Illinois ahead of the winter season.”
The updated guidance moves basketball to high risk due to the risks brought about by contact between players and by indoor play. In being placed in the high-risk category, basketball may only be played at level 1, with no-contact practices and training being all that is allowed.
But the IHSA has decided that despite that guidance, practices will be going ahead anyway.
The organization’s board said contests can begin Nov. 30 within an Illinois COVID region or within a conference. Masks will be required for all players, coaches, and officials, and teams will follow limitations that will allow a maximum of 31 games.
Local schools will decide for themselves if their basketball teams can play, the IHSA said.
Pritzker on Wednesday was asked specifically if he’ll try to stop the IHSA from going forward with its plan.
“We’ve told school districts what the rules are, and I think they all know. So, IHSA may have their views of it, but school districts know what the rules are, and I think that it’s unfortunate, but they would probably be taking on legal liability if they went ahead and moved beyond what the state has set as the mitigation standard,” he said.
On Wednesday night, many districts were talking – and there appeared to be more support for the IHSA’s plan downstate, with a few suburban districts also leaning that way.
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