Nearly 100 "Let Them Play CA" protests planned across state on Friday

Group advocating for the reopening of youth sports
lincoln high football 2
Posted at 5:53 PM, Jan 14, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-14 21:04:55-05

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — Nearly 100 groups of student-athletes, parents, and coaches will gather across the state tomorrow to advocate for the reopening of high school sports.

Ralliers are asking Gov. Gavin Newsom to consider loosening COVID-19 restrictions like other states that they saw are practicing safely.

With 1983 yards and 26 touchdowns, Nicholas Gardinera had an impressive Junior season at Scripps Ranch High School.

"We've just been on our grind every day," he said.

But recruiters don't have any stats for his senior year.

"No father wants to see their child not live up to or get a chance to live up to their potential," his father, Marlon Gardinera, said. Gardinera is also the school's head football coach.

The COVID-19 pandemic canceled all high school sports in the state. Many parents say their kids just aren't the same.

"We all recognize COVID is real and serious, but we also have to find safely for kids in other avenues, and that's protecting them from emotional damage," Brad Hensley said.

Hensley is the father of a football player at Mission Hills High School and the co-founder of LetThemPlayCA, a Facebook group with members advocating for the reopening of youth sports.

"Forty of the other states across the country have successfully and safely done youth sports," Hensley said. "Approximately 30 million interactions and not one serious case of a hospitalization or serious illness from youth sports."

Currently, the ability for California's high school to resume sports depends on a strict color-coded system, mirroring the region's public health tier:

  • Purple includes outdoor sports with minimal contact. It includes Cross Country, Golf, Skiing/ Snowboarding, Swimming & Diving, Tennis, and Track & Field.
  • The next tier is Red, which includes Baseball, Field Hockey, Girls Lacrosse, and Softball.
  • The next tier is Orange, which includes Badminton, Football, Gymnastics, Boys Lacrosse, Soccer, Volleyball, and Water Polo.
  • The lowest tier is yellow, including indoor, high contact sports such as Basketball, Competitive Cheerleading, and Wrestling.

"If you're facing third and long, that's a situation where you ought listen to the football coach," County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher said at Wednesday's COVID-19 briefing. "If you're facing a global pandemic, that is a situation where you ought to listen to public health experts."

On Tuesday, CIF San Diego announced that purple tier sports could begin practices on February 1st, and lower-tier sports can also start one tier above the region's health code tier. But San Diego remains in the purple (Widespread COVID infection rate). So sports in the orange tier and below cannot start.

"Although that's a very positive step, and we're glad they are moving in the right direction, it doesn't go far enough to address the kids' needs right now," Gardinera said.

Gardinera said what they need right now is a sense of normalcy and an opportunity for his son to get to the next level.

"When a kid has dedicated as much time and effort in succeeding, which is the same ingredients for life, and to have those opportunities taken away, it's heartbreaking," Gardinera said.