Football team petitions to bring sports back this spring

Chiara Purificato

The Wilson football team has banded together to protest for a safe way to bring sports back.

After Mayor Muriel Bowser came out with an order on January 11 extending the health emergency in the District, sanctioned sports at DC public, private, and charter schools were indefinitely suspended. The DCSAA previously had plans to commence with sports in accordance with COVID-19 guidelines put in place, but were no longer able to facilitate sports of any kind. 

Senior running back and linebacker on the Wilson football team Danny Page Jr refused for his team to go down without a fight—having his and his teammates voices heard by the mayor and city officials was crucial. “The mayor doesn’t see it from our perspective,” Page said. With the support of his teammates, other DCPS football players, coaches, and parents, Page has started an initiative to lobby the ban on athletics to be able to safely participate in sanctioned activities, and get sports back. 

The team argues that the absence of any sort of a season at all is detrimental to the mental health and emotional well being of athletes. The lack of playing time also makes it harder to obtain athletic scholarships, which many players rely on.

Junior quarterback Alex Godavitarne was looking forward to his junior season, a crucial period in the college recruitment process, and felt “mad and disappointed” when it was cancelled. “Most kids play football because it’s a way to college,” said Godavitarne, adding that this was one of the reasons he played.

Players having their seasons stripped from them left many feeling frustrated, and without football as their outlet. Godavitarne explained “it’s bigger than just a game for a lot of kids,” it motivates student athletes, improves wellbeing, and “keeps kids off the streets.” Frustration also arose among coaches and players when their Maryland and Virginia counterparts were being permitted to begin their seasons, with governors Larry Hogan and Ralph Northam giving schools the green light.

The team started a petition on Change.org called “Allow DCPS Football Activities for Players’ Emotional Well-Being and College Scholarships” As of February 18, 484 people have signed the petition of its 500 goal. 

Page and his team have gained support from Principal Martin and Athletic Director Mitch Gore along the way, and students who signed the petition and help circulate it on social media. “When I think of the football team, they don’t have outside teams to join… It really does hamper them significantly that there are no other outlets for them.” Gore said. The team has also gained traction with local news stations following their progress including an article in the Washington Post and an interview with WUSA9. 

The leaders of this cause also hosted a Zoom meeting on Thursday February 18, at 7pm with around 70 attendees to present the powerpoint they plan to present to the mayor. Students, teachers, parents, administrators, and coaches, were all welcome for an inclusive conversation about what’s going on and their plan to revive sports.

While neighboring schools across the border are salvaging some sort of a season, DCPS is in a difficult void of sports. COVID-19 remains to be the biggest obstacle, and even players and coaches who want to return have concerns. 

The goal is not to “protest against our own safety,” Godavitarne said, and added that he has concerns about “the players and their families” if the team returns to play. However, Wilson athletes and coaches are willing to take whatever safety precautions it takes to get back in the game.