Gov. Ron DeSantis, in his second visit to Jacksonville this week, messaged on the importance of reopening schools, with an eye specifically to student-athletes.
The Governor had some reliable support on hand, with an all-star roster of Republican allies and some renowned athletes.
Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran, Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, and a host of former athletes were on hand to push for the importance of “boys and girls sports.”
DeSantis said that “cancellation of sports has had huge effects,” and let roundtable members make the case.
Former Florida State University star and current coach Charlie Ward described the difficulties for student-athletes.
“Our kids were still working out. They’re still in tournaments,” Ward said. “If that is happening, why can’t it all happen in one place?”
“When they’re working out with us, we know who they’re working out with,” said Ward, a former Heisman Trophy winner.
Lito Sheppard, a coach who was a former NFL player and Florida Gator, sang from the same hymnal.
“Sports teach you so many things,” Sheppard said. “It means a lot for our communities.”
Sheppard noted that some kids missed out on scholarships because of the pandemic, some of the “negatives that come from taking away sports.”
Suwannee High School coach Kyler Hall said students “are going to find something to do” if sports are canceled.
“We hope it will be something constructive, but that’s not always the case,” Hall, the son of a former coach, said.
“If there’s no high school athletics, that’s going to crush these kids,” Hall added.
Corcoran, the father of six, likewise was on board.
“This is about choice and options, and those choices and options should be available to every … student-athlete,” Corcoran said, saying that sports teach life lessons that make athletes better people.
Curry, whose son is preparing for high school football at Bishop Kenny, made similar points.
“Parents and kids ought to have the option,” Curry said.