Putnam City athletes protest in front of admin building after decision to halt athletics due to COVID

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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Putnam City athletes protested in front of the district’s administration building Monday after the district’s decision to halt athletics due to growing cases of coronavirus in Oklahoma County. 

Putnam City School district sent KFOR the statement below Monday afternoon in reference to the decision. 

“The Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) released an update showing that Oklahoma County is in the Orange Level 2 category of the COVID Alert System. When the update was released, Putnam City transitioned to the Orange Level 2 protocol established by the Oklahoma State Department of Education prior to the beginning of the school year. This is the same protocol we have been following all season when other school districts were classified in Orange Level 2 and games had to be canceled.  The Oklahoma State Department of Education guidelines for Orange Level 2 state that ‘buildings and campuses not be used for extracurricular activities, including spectator sports, or other group activities.’  We know this news is very disheartening, and we want to make every effort to reschedule activities canceled this week.  Specifically related to football, the Oklahoma Secondary Schools Athletic Association has established guidelines to follow when any district football game cannot be played due to COVID. The preference is that a strong effort be made to reschedule games.”  

According to OSDH’s COVID-19 alert map, Oklahoma County has moved to orange level two. That means the cases have jumped from 15.8 per 100,000 people to 26.2 cases per 100,000 people. 

Putnam City players coaches and parents joined together with chants of “let us play” among other school chants to protest the decision. 

“We all grew up together,” said Riley Edwards, a senior middle linebacker for Putnam City North High School. 

“It actually shows how big of a family the Putnam City district is,” said Kayhon Russell, a senior wide receiver for Putnam City North. 

Their coaches also joined in. 

“To follow the guidelines on a recommendation basis when other schools are still playing, still competing, is unfair to our kids,” said Ryan Laverty, Putnam City North’s head football coach. 

“I had a kid text me this morning, ‘how come Edmond Santa Fe gets to play tonight and we don’t get to play Friday?’” said Carter Whitson, Putnam City’s head football coach. 

The district joins Oklahoma City Public Schools decision in halting all sports for the time being. 

“It’s not just about the football players, it’s about everybody else that’s getting- not the ability to do their extracurricular activities,” Whitson said. 

“We want to stand for something,” said Nakiah Slaughter, a senior girls basketball player at Putnam City West. “Our school and our basketball team.” 

The school district said in their statement that they are acting on guidance from the state department of education. However, players parents are still wanting to move forward. 

“I’m at the point in my life where I would rather my son get the COVID virus- then, within two days he’ll be fine,” said Kevin Thornton, whose son plays football at Putnam City North. “Rather than see the damage it’s doing to him emotionally at home.” 

“We’re going to choose to fight for our families and we’re not going to live in fear,” said Joey Keefer, whose son plays football at Putnam City North. 

The district said in their statement that they want to have a “strong effort” to reschedule games.

Other districts that are still playing include Edmond and Deer Creek.

However, Putnam City athletes said they know in the current COVID-19 climate, there are not any promises. 

“All year, we’ve been playing every game like it’s our last because it could be,” Edwards said. 

“You never know when it’s going to be taken away from you like right now,” Russell said. 

The school district is already in an all-virtual learning format right now.

The parents and coaches said they plan to meet in front of the administration building every day until the school board hears them out. They also said they are planning to take part in public comment at the next school board meeting on October 5.

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