By Ray Hamill — The message from all across the H-DNL was loud and clear on Friday afternoon. They want to play!
Well over 100 student athletes, coaches, parents and fans showed up in Eureka for the latest “Let Them Play CA” rally, showcasing the growing support for the movement, which is asking California Governor Gavin Newsom to allow an immediate and full return to youth sports in the state.
Click here for video highlights and photos of Friday’s rally …
At least six different H-DNL schools — Arcata, Eureka, Ferndale, Fortuna, McKinleyville and St. Bernard’s — were represented at the rally, which was held outside the offices of Senator Mike McGuire and Assembly Member and Chair of the Health Committee Jim Wood.
Student athletes from five of those schools spoke to the gathering, which was the second held in the area in two weeks and one of numerous held around the state on Friday.
“We are here asking why is it safe to play in 45 other states,” Ferndale senior Jenner Christiansen asked. “We now have data and research that we can do this right and keep our community safe while we still get a chance to participate in the sports we love.”
A number of coaches also spoke in favor of an immediate return and about the mental health concerns associated with not playing.
“Our kids are struggling. There’s anxiety, depression, loneliness, stress. It’s happening with all our kids,” Fortuna boys basketball and track and field head coach Norm Sotomayor said. “For many students, sports and athletics is their way to relieve stress. That’s their outlet.”
County Supervisor Rex Bohn emceed the event and talked of how he impressed he was with how many different schools in the area came together in support of the cause.
“The thing is, these kids, you know, they play against each other and they have those rivalries in school,” Bohn said. “But they have this bond.”
Sotomayor added that student athletes all across the league are being affected by the shutdown.
“I might be representing Fortuna High School wearing my Husky blue and my Husky mask,” he said. “But I’m here on behalf of all the athletes from South Fork to Hoopa to Crescent City and everywhere in between.”
Bohn also urged the crowd to take the cause to social media.
“Let Them Play California has 51,000 members,” he said. “Let’s make it 52,000 after today.”
Youth sports in California have been shut down since March of last year despite returning months ago in most states around the nation.