Governor Murphy clears way for winter sports
TRENTON—High school, youth and recreational indoor sports were allowed to resume last weekend as Governor Phil Murphy opted not to extend his suspension of those activities on December 30.
On December 5, Murphy had issued an executive order suspending all indoor sports activities for scholastic, youth and adult recreational levels until January 2. Last week, he decided not to extend the ban.
“Given the safety protocols we have in place and the stability in our numbers (COVID-19 reported cases) over the last month, although stability at an uncomfortably high level, we feel confident we can move forward by continuing to deal with any outbreaks or other issues on an individual case basis as opposed to a blanket prohibition,’’ Murphy said.
The decision paves the way for high schools to conduct modified, shortened winter seasons. The New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) had issued its plans for the winter season last month, with basketball and bowing teams allowed to begin workouts on January 11.
There was speculation that if Murphy extended his December 5 executive order, the winter season may have been canceled. The NJSIAA canceled its entire spring 2020 season.
“We do not wish to see that happen,’’ Murphy said.
“We know sports are important for both the physical and mental wellness of our youth and our other residents. We will continue to closely watch the outbreak data and reserve the right to pull this back if we must,” he said.
Murphy admitted he considered extending the ban through January 16, but said his administration was not convinced COVID-19 numbers would be much higher than their current levels.
According to the governor, no fans will be allowed if the number of athletes, coaches, officials and school site directors exceeds 10.
“That brings me no joy to say that, but that’s the way it’s got to be. We’re going to be watching this. We have to watch this. All options remain on the table,’’ Murphy said.
The NJSIAA issued a statement in response to Murphy’s announcement.
“NJSIAA welcomes the governor’s announcement and continued support, and looks forward to the beginning of the indoor, winter, scholastic sports season – specifically, NJSIAA Season 2,” the statement said.