The reason behind the no spectator mandate and how fans are reacting

Ray Hamill/ – Local photographer Jose Quezada looks down on the empty gymnasium during halftime of Friday night’s game at Eureka High.

By Ray Hamill — There was an almost eerie silence heard around the H-DNL on Friday night, as games were played in empty arenas just two days after the local district superintendents voted 6-4 to impose a 16-day no spectator mandate at high school sporting events because of concerns over the recent spike in COVID cases.

In sharp contrast to that Friday night silence, however, are the voices of local fans, parents and students, who have been left frustrated by the news and appear determined to let the decision makers know how they feel.

“Let Them Play Humboldt” advocate Nancy Vizenor said the local movement has received “an incredible outpouring of support to have spectators allowed in the stands,” and she is hoping that support will be expressed to the H-DNL.

“What’s hurting our kids is the mental health aspect,” she said. “And I’d really like to see our administrators realize that this is a big part of high school for these students.

“What we’re asking from the league when they meet on Wednesday is an immediate reversal of the decision.”

The league Athletic Directors will meet on Wednesday and the mandate will be among the topics discussed, but any reversal or the possibility of a limited number of fans being allowed at H-DNL sporting events would have to be approved by the district superintendents.

League commissioner Jack Lakin stressed that it was a “student centered” decision to implement the no spectator mandate and that the No. 1 priority was to avoid having to close schools for any length of times.

The league did consider suspending the winter sports (basketball and wrestling) for a two-week period, but opted against that, in part because of the difficulty of rescheduling that many games and also because of a limited number of officials available to do so.

According to Lakin, the league superintendents wanted to make a decision that addressed the current COVID situation but continued to allow students the opportunity to compete.

All of this, however, has left local fans, parents and students frustrated and concerned about the lingering mental health aspects of the decision, with the pandemic now affecting a third consecutive school year.

“We’re trying to understand the reasoning behind the decision and what are their concerns,” Vizenor said. “And we want to work together to figure out how this can happen.”

What seems most frustrating for fans and parents is that the most common current variant of COVID (Omicron) is not as detrimental as previous variants and they feel it should be viewed differently because of that.

There was an almost eerie silence at Friday night’s H-DNL basketball game at at Jay Willard Gymnasium.

“It’s a different ball game now,” Vizenor said.

Additionally, many concerned local fans are having a hard time understanding why they are allowed to go to bars and restaurants and professional sporting events yet they cannot attend their children’s games in what they see as a safe environment.

Many have also stressed that the disease is spread more easily through other social engagements and less so while attending an H-DNL sporting event in a far less crowded environment.

The Let Them Play Humboldt movement has started a petition, which  can be accessed hereand is asking for supporters to write emails to school athletic directors and principals and district superintendents.

According to Vizenor, there is also the possibility of some rallies being held at some of the local high schools in the coming days and supporters are being urged to let their voices be heard on social media.

Lakin said the league will continue to monitor the situation along with information from county health officials and that they will take into consideration input from community members.

The no spectator mandate is scheduled to end on Jan 23.

3 replies »

  1. It is best. Hopefully this omnicron is the end of this. Hopefully enough get it to get herd immunity. And life back to as normal as it will ever. B..

  2. Went to school with a Craig Vizenor, he played sports, basketball, not sure of any connection, but Nancy Vizenor is correct.

    Wondering who the 10 voter superintendents were, then maybe we can know what each individual was thinking, what school geography they represent…

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