N.C. coach sounds off as legislators push to increase 100-person capacity limit at high school sporting events

High School Football
High School Football(Josh Auzenne/WAFB-TV | WAFB)
Updated: Feb. 18, 2021 at 5:54 PM EST
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RALEIGH, N.C. (WBTV) - A Kannapolis coach is sounding off as lawmakers are introducing a bill to increase capacity at outdoor high school sporting events in North Carolina, which could allow families to watch their children compete during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Gov. Roy Cooper’s current executive order allows up to 100 fans at outdoor high school sporting events. Because of the order, many families are unable to watch children play at high school games. The 100-person limit was set to comply with state executive orders for mass gatherings.

Sens. Todd Johnson (R-Union), Vickie Sawyer (R-Iredell), and Danny Britt (R-Robeson) introduced Senate Bill 116 Thursday to change the 100-person capacity limit. The bill would allow outdoor high school sporting facilities to be filled to 40-percent capacity.

“Sen. Johnson pointed to Cuthbertson High School in Union County. Its football stands can hold 2,976 people, yet Gov. Cooper’s restriction only allows for 100 people, or 3% capacity,” a press release states.

Mike Newsome is the head football coach of A.L. Brown High School in Kannapolis. He spoke about several topics surrounding the capacity limit and had a direct message for the governor.

“Governor Cooper change this rule! We can’t have 100 people. High school athletics is the biggest dropout prevention program we have. There is no better dropout prevention in the state of North Carolina than high school athletics, that’s what it is,” Coach Newsome said.

Newsome says high school athletics is the biggest dropout prevention program in the state and compared its consistency to that of other heavily-funded programs.

“We spend millions of dollars in the state of North Carolina on dropout prevention, millions of dollars on different programs and some of those programs work and some of them don’t. Best dropout prevention program we’ve got is high school athletics,” Newsome said.

Coach Newsome also spoke about what this limit capacity would do when it comes to the ability to generate money to properly operate a high school sports program.

“The only thing that we’ve got that makes money for high school athletics in most school systems is the ticket sales. And we’re limited to just 100 tickets? That won’t even pay for the officials. Every game we have, we go in the red if we can’t sell but 100 tickets,” Newsome said.

Other than just the families of athletes, Coach Newsome pointed to the families of band members and cheerleaders that won’t be able to attend games.

In a press conference Thursday, Gov. Cooper said the state will be issuing a new executive order next week as discussions continue about increasing the number of spectators at sporting events.

The governor says health experts are currently looking at data, talking to people in other states and talking with the CDC about the safest actions going forward.

Cooper hopes there will be some changes in the new executive order next week.

Legislators sent Cooper the following letter Thursday, asking him to amend the executive order and increase capacity at high school sporting events.

“Dear Governor Cooper, We write to request that you amend your executive orders to increase the number of attendees permitted at outdoor sporting events, specifically for high school athletics. Our constituents have been contacting us with the reasonable and legitimate complaint that they cannot watch their children play sports under the existing rules even though there is plenty of room to do so safely. Your December 8, 2020 Executive Order 181 allows only 100 people at large outdoor high school football fields. That restriction does not seem appropriate to us. The end result is parents and close family members cannot see their loved ones compete even though there is ample outdoor space for proper social distancing. We request that you update your executive order to allow outdoor sports complexes to operate under a percentage capacity restriction, not a 100-person maximum. Thank you for your consideration.

Senators say they’ve received complaints from parents over not being able to watch children play sports.

Nearly 39,000 people have signed an online petition asking Cooper to change the guidelines for mass gatherings at high school athletic events. It’s not just a challenge for the parents, but for players too.

Legislators say they will advance their bill if necessary.

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