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COVID-19 outbreak on high school football team sparks controversy, delays AA Far West Regional game

Bennett McQuaid Football
Posted at 11:27 PM, Nov 21, 2021

WILLIAMSVILLE, N.Y. (WKBW) — Frustration coming from Buffalo Public School Board member Sharon Belton-Cottman over the decision to move Bennett High School's AA regional football game against McQuaid Jesuit High School to Tuesday.

“We are in shock,” Belton-Cottman said.

The game was originally scheduled for Saturday but canceled after a COVID-19 outbreak on McQuaid’s team. New York State Public High School Athletic Association’s COVID-19 guidance says, "no game dates or times, event schedules, etc. will be adjusted or revised to accommodate an impacted school (i.e., quarantine, contact tracing, etc.)."
“They should forfeit,” Belton-Cottman said. “It’s a safety issue, in addition to that it’s a health issue.”

In a statement, Buffalo Public Schools said:

We have seen a highly disturbing precedent occur with the Bennett/McQuaid football contest case. To date, it does not embody a spirit of equity, fairness, and good sportsmanship. The game clearly should have been forfeited due to the significant Covid-19 outbreak on the McQuaid team. Health and safety must always be the first priority for everyone.

Neither BPS nor NYSPHSAA have been privy to the injunction documents allegedly filed with the Court. If this case is not heard tomorrow or Tuesday morning and properly resolved, we will call an urgent press conference and invite all relevant local and state authorities to stand with us.

This is fast unfolding as a racial injustice and inequity issue. I will not tolerate, under any circumstance, victimizing and discounting our student athletes when they have followed all the rules pursuant to this matter.

Belton-Cottman said last year with no scheduling flexibility, Bennett had their season cut short due to COVID-19.

“I cannot sit back and be quiet when it comes to disparities of this nature,” Belton-Cottman said.

On Friday the Erie County Department of Health said it would only allow vaccinated players and coaches to participate in the regional game. McQuaid argued that the county's restrictions hindered their ability to field a team.

“It’s frustrating for everyone,” Belton-Cottman said.

McQuaid’s president said, “All of us hope we can allow our players to safely compete in game they have worked so hard for.”

But Belton-Cottman said with so many team members testing positive, there shouldn’t be a game.

“You would not see professional games happen, you would not see college games happen, you would not see local games happen.”

Belton-Cottman said a hearing on this matter is scheduled to take place this week Buffalo Public Schools said health and safety should be the top priority.

“How do you bring infectious people, knowing they’re infectious, into an area that is already of great concern,” Belton-Cottman said.

BPS said “As a District, we are fully prepared to take immediate appellate action to ensure a safe, fair, and just outcome.”