With a coterie of “Let Them Play” stakeholders that include local elected officials, high school coaches and athletes, Assemblyman Colin J. Schmitt announced this week that he would introduce legislation to compel the state Department of Education and the state Department of Health to allow all interscholastic sports to be cleared to play this year using proper COVID-19 safety protocols.
Currently, some sports are being played in New York, while others like basketball, football, ice hockey and more are not allowed, despite a majority of states, including neighboring New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Connecticut, allowing basketball competition to begin this week.
“New York’s student-athletes should have equal opportunity to safely compete in all sports just like students in a majority of states in our nation,” Schmitt said in a press release detailing his proposal. “Medical and scientific data prove interscholastic sports using the proper protocols is safe during COVID-19. I have received overwhelming outreach from players, families, coaches and community members on this issue and agree that it is time to ‘let them play.’”
Assemblyman Michael Lawler, a Republican from Rockland County, added that “this is a very trying time for many of them, their parents and their teachers. Getting back to playing sports and competition is the best way for us to get back a sense of normalcy in our society.”
Monroe Town Supervisor Tony Cardone was among those joining Schmitt for his press conference. Cardone has a long résumé of support for local sports, be it as a member of the Monroe Joint Recreation Committee or in his longstanding role with the Monroe-Woodbury Football Parents organization, a group that raises thousands for scholarships to student-athletes.
“This past year has been one of the most challenging times we have faced in recent history,” Cardone said. “As we continue to navigate through our altered day-to-day routines, we need to seek and find ways to resume activities that play an integral role in the health and well-being of our youth. This legislation on Interscholastic Sports spearheaded by Assemblyman Schmitt must and will succeed.”
Pete Tuohy, who represents Monroe as a member of the Orange County Legislature in Goshen, agreed. “Interscholastic Sports must begin again,” he said. “It goes beyond just stats and victories on the field, it builds character, competitive spirit and teamwork.”
As a Republican, Schmitt is in the minority in the state Assemblyman. He will need support of Democrats not only in the Assembly but also in the Democratically controlled state Senate. And if he gains support in both legislative house, Gov. Andrew Cuomo holds the power to say yea or nay, especially when it comes to COVID-19.