LONG ISLAND (WABC) -- Dozens of students, parents, and elected officials gathered at a protest on Long Island Friday morning in support of high school sports after Nassau County made the decision to postpone all fall athletics over concerns of spreading the coronavirus.
The demonstration was held outside the Nassau BOCES George Farber Administrative Center in Garden City, where supporters argued that teams can play safely.
"Our kids have been playing all summer long," Hempstead Town Supervisor Don Clavin said. "And when we follow guidelines, when we wear masks, when we do it right, these kids can play and we can be safe."
Suffolk County's high school sports governing board, Section XI, said this week it will continue with the plan to allow low-risk high school sports to resume September 21, but Nassau County's Section VIII said the postponement was in the best interest of students, coaches and families.
"We understand it's tough right now to understand, but we feel that it's the best interest and health and safety of our student-athletes," Executive Director Patrick Pizzarelli said.
Many parents were outraged, and the backlash was swift.
"We cannot let five, seven, or nine people destroy our kids' sports season," parent Jill Levine said. "It will impact too much."
Soccer player Nicole Devlin insisted players are willing to follow recommended safety protocols.
"We socially distance, we wear masks when we're not on the field, we don't high five going on and off the field," she said. "We're safe because we know if we're not, we're not going to play."
For incoming freshman Bradley Schwartz, there's no time like the present.
"My dream's not to be in the NFL," he said. "My dream is not to be in college. I want to play now. Now is the time. We can't be patient anymore."
Pizzarelli said board members believe too many unknowns exist regarding how youth sports may contribute to the spread of COVID-19.
"It's like a slap in the face," said Joe Marotta, whose son plays soccer at H. Frank Carey High School. "Let the kids play."
Pizzarelli said the plan is to offer high school sports beginning in January and February with winter sports, fall sports such as football, soccer, and volleyball will occur in March and April and spring sports like tennis, golf, baseball, softball, and lacrosse will take place in May and June.
"We're not canceling anything," he said. "We're still going to have three sports seasons. It's just going to be later in the year where maybe they'll know even more about this horrible disease."
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