Santiam superintendent defends call to pull football team amid mask concerns

The Santiam Canyon School District superintendent said Tuesday it was a “courageous move” by the athletic director to pull the football team off the field in Culver Friday night over concerns their opponents weren’t following state mask-wearing rules.

“Attempts were made over multiple quarters of football to remediate the issue with the referees and opposing team but met with no noticeable support or enforcement of the mandated mask rule,” Todd Miller told Central Oregon Daily News in a statement. “Based on the information we have obtained, the difficult decision to pull our kids from the field is fully supported by school administration, as safety of student-athletes remains a top priority.”

Football and other high school athletics have resumed across the state, but with strict rules in place for participation. Players must wear masks at all times in all sports – from cross-country to soccer and including football.

The athletic director removed the players from the field in the third quarter of Friday night’s game as Santiam trailed 8-0.

Video of the situation on Facebook shows someone from the Santiam sideline yelling toward the referees to do something before eventually pulling the players.

“We are disappointed that these athletes lost an opportunity to compete, yet we are proud of their actions on the field that day and the way the situation was handled by our staff,” Miller said. “It was a courageous move by our athletic director to do the right thing to protect all the athletes on that field, as he was forced into a decision he did not want to have to make, in a situation he was very frustrated to be put into.”

When contacted Monday, Culver officials declined to comment, saying the game was in the past.

Shea Little, the school’s athletic director, and head football coach was known for wearing a mask long before COVID protocols were in place. He received a double lung transplant in 2018 due to a genetic disorder.

The Oregon School Activities Association also declined comment other than to say they were looking into the matter.

“We are doing all we can to ensure this does not happen again for future athletic events and appreciate the initial discussions with OSAA as we work through this safety concern,” Miller wrote.

 

 

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