Richmond High football coach speaks out at state Capitol: ‘Let them play’

Richmond High football coach speaks out at state Capitol: 'Let them play'
Richmond High Head Football Coach George Jackson speaks at the state Capitol on Thursday, Feb. 11, 2021.

Richmond High Head Football Coach George Jackson joined a growing movement at the state Capitol today calling for youth sports to resume in California, citing the health and safety impacts of isolating students from programs that serve as important safe havens and springboards for their futures.

“If this is going to help a kid get to go to college, allow them to do that,” Jackson stated in a speech at the event, during which 100 student-athletes delivered 10,000 letters and signatures to the Governor’s Office asking him to reopen youth sports now. “If this is going to help keep a kid out of jail, off marijuana, off alcohol, off the streets, let them play.”

The effort is led by Let Them Play CA, an organization that’s amassed nearly 60,000 members on Facebook since Jan. 1 and is averaging a growth of 2,000 new members per day. They’ve been urging Gov. Gavin Newsom to lift the nation’s toughest restrictions on youth sports, saying the data and research have shown minimal spread of COVID-19 in dozens of states where sports seasons have been completed during the pandemic. Meanwhile, the organization cites research suggesting the ban on sports is having a significant negative impact on student scholarships, futures and mental and physical health.

“We want to do everything we can just to get to that next level,” said CJ McMillan, student athlete who plays football at Capital Christian High School in Sacramento.  “Some of these people behind me, this is the only way out.”

Added Zelbee Radar, who plays volleyball at Bella Vista High in Sacramento, “I’ve heard people say this isn’t about scholarships, but it is. I wanted to play this sport professionally. I wanted to travel and play nationally. This is about a scholarship I got taken from me. This is about student-athletes not getting to do what they love. This is about government officials not doing the right thing.”

Let Them Play CA is seeing promise in their efforts. Nearly half the California State Assembly members signed a resolution urging Gov. Newsom to allow football, baseball, basketball and other prep sports to start immediately. In the past week, two athletes teamed with the organization in filing a lawsuit in San Diego Superior Court against state officials including the governor and county.