WHS fall athletes protest decision to suspend sports


Photo Brendan Bertsch

Student athletes lead protest at WHS

On Nov. 8, Westfield Superintendent Margeret Dolan announced the closure of in-person classes and the suspension of athletics at WHS due to a rise in COVID-19 cases among WHS students, citing 23 total positive results with new cases developing. The following day, in response to the announcement, over 100 student-athletes and parents gathered, in masks, on the lawn of WHS to protest the decision before marching to the Board of Education building and the Municipal Building.

“The fall athletes are coming together to try to explain to the Board of Ed why we need to finish our seasons,” said sophomore soccer player Sutton Factor. The girls’ and boys’ soccer teams had a County Championship match and first round of the sectional tournament scheduled just days after the shutdown. 

Boys’ varsity soccer coach Eric Shaw said, “I first must say the safety and health of all players in our community is most important. It is obviously disappointing based on what we were told that there are no athletes or soccer players that are positive and that other districts in the state have chosen to take a different approach.”

Shane Hanna, senior football player said, “I just think that it’s unfair to all fall sports that they’re not going to be allowed to play, especially the seniors.” 

Students then marched across town to the BOE office and the Health Department building looking for someone to hear what they had to say. Many athletes carried signs as they walked through town and police and parents escorted them. 

“I was extremely hopeful that Monday’s protest would have made the Superintendent and Health Department reconsider and come up with another plan that would keep everyone safe. Instead, not one adult at WHS, the BOE or the Health Department came out to show their students, the soccer players, or the members of their community enough respect to address them and explain their decision,” said Kathleen Kronick, senior parent to a boys varsity soccer player.

The demonstration lasted two hours before everyone packed up and headed home. Not too long after, @dubfieldathletics, a student-run Instagram account focused on promoting Blue Devil sports, posted a series of photos of fall sports teams with the caption “#letusplay.” Dubfield administrator and senior football captain Johnny Heard said that their intention for the post was to bring attention to the demonstration and “to let the kids at the protest know that we [Dubfield] are with them.”

The comments section soon blew up and kids were using it as a way to argue their perspective on the suspension of sports, as well as voice their opinions on protest. Jon Keenan, a senior who viewed the posts, said, “I think that the protest was for a rational reason, but I don’t think that letting the sports continue is the best idea. I know certain teams have been very responsible with handling the covid situation, but I also know that some have been the opposite.” Keenan also added that the comment section became hostile amongst Westfield students. 

The comment section quickly became political and aggressive, with some commenters challenging the severity of the coronavirus and others claiming WHS athletes were entirely responsible for the school shutdowns. After hundreds of comments, Dubfield removed the comment section altogether. Heard and the other administrators made the decision “due to concerns that some students were being disrespectful” and if it was not stopped, kids may have had to face disciplinary actions from the administration. 

No changes have been made to the Board of Education’s decision to suspend the fall sports season.