Sports Allowed This Fall But Without Most Spectators

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (WOSU) — Gov. Mike DeWine said that Ohio will allow all sports, including contact sports, to be held this fall, but with limited spectators.

“I hope the desire to have a season will inspire our young people, our athletes, our student athletes, 24-7 to be as careful as they can,” DeWine said at his press conference Tuesday.

Gov. Mike DeWine
Gov. Mike DeWine [Andy Chow | Statehouse News Bureau]
DeWine said the Ohio Department of Health will issue a public health order with guidance on allowing sports “as safely as they can be played in the era of COVID-19.” However, he said the state will permit schools to push activities to the spring if they wish.

The order covers not only high school athletics, under the umbrella of the Ohio High School Athletic Association, but also any other sport leagues or conferences across the state.

Under the order, spectators will not be allowed at games or practices, DeWine says, other than family members or people “very close to that particular child.” Other competitions such as marching band, drill teams or cheer teams will be under the same rules.

“The focus should be on young people, letting them play,” DeWine said. “It’s also important, I believe, that young person have someone there if possible to support them.”

DeWine’s announcement comes with some schools already holding sports practices, while others have suspended activities due to coronavirus concerns. Columbus City Schools, the largest district in Ohio, canceled school sports and extracurriculars last Friday after moving all K-12 classes online.

“I believe as the CEO that this best for my students and our community,” said Columbus City Schools superintendent Talisa Dixon last week. “And then as we continue to get advice and we see a decrease in the number of cases, then we would go back and we would make some adjustments to those decisions.”

Lt. Gov. Jon Husted has been one of the loudest voices advocating for high school sports this fall. He tweeted last week that good results can’t be expected when sports are taken away from young people.

The Ohio High School Athletic Association announced earlier this month it will allow all football teams to enter the playoffs beginning October 9.

As of now, regular testing is required of athletes in contact sports under a statewide health order.