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Gov. J.B. Pritzker doubles down, won’t allow high school football

Every state that borders Illinois is now playing high school football. That hasn’t changed Pritzker’s mind.

Lincoln-Way East’s AJ Henning (3) leads the Griffins onto the field to play Homewood-Flossmoor.
Lincoln-Way East’s AJ Henning (3) leads the Griffins onto the field to play Homewood-Flossmoor.
Allen Cunningham/For the Sun-Times

Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s words and tone on playing high school sports during COVID-19 haven’t changed a bit since he shut things down in late July.

There were protests and rallies all over the state the past week, with parents and students calling for high school football and other fall sports to restart. Area football coaches have organized rallies in Springfield and Chicago on Saturday.

Those movements don’t seem to have made any impact on Pritzker’s mind set.

“I’m not willing to sacrifice people’s lives or their health,” Pritzker said at a press conference on Tuesday. “Neither the children nor their parents who would be affected also. We are being careful about it but I’m relying on doctors and researchers to give us the information. This isn’t a political decision. I know that there are people who would like me simply to make a political decision to allow people to endanger themselves.”

Every state that borders Illinois is now playing high school football. That hasn’t changed Pritzker’s mind. The current plan is for Illinois to play football in the spring.

“We have the lowest positivity rate in the Midwest,” Pritzker said. “Still too high. The states you are talking about all have very high positivity rates. Double-digit positivity rates in most. Those are states, fine, if they decided to endanger children and families in those states by allowing certain contact sports to take place that is their decision. It’s not something that is good for the families and the children of Illinois.”

The Illinois High School Association announced on Friday that it sent a letter to Pritzker asking for permission for the IHSA “to resume control over determining the resumption of IHSA sports and activities.”

However, the IHSA did not say if it supported a resumption of high school sports. In the same announcement the IHSA said that “there have been no discussions, let alone proposed timelines, for resuming any sports at this time.”

The IHSA and the governor are allowing teams across the state to practice this month under specific COVID-19 guidelines. However, Chicago Public Schools isn’t even allowing that.

“With the support of the Office of Student Health and Wellness, we made this decision with the health, safety and welfare of our student-athletes and coaches in mind,” CPS Sports Director David Rosengard wrote in an email to principals and athletic directors.

That makes it seem unlikely that CPS would allow fall sports even if the governor changed his mind.