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Can we save Friday night high school football as a spectator sport? Editorial Board Roundtable - cleveland.com

Author: cleveland.com

Source: https://www.cleveland.com/opinion/2023/10/can-we-save-friday-night-high-school-football-as-a-spectator-sport-editorial-board-roundtable.html

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Fall is a magical time of year for Friday night high school football and all the students involved, not to mention the many family and friends and proud alums who also love to cheer on their teams in person.But for many local players and spectators, it’s become a nightmare because of fears of violence.As outlined in a recent overview by cleveland.com’s John H.Tucker and Matt Goul, the trouble started Sept.14 when threats at Shaker Heights High School “prompted administrators to ban spectators and bands from the home game that night against Maple Heights.”Unfortunately, that wasn’t the first or the last such incident.Two weeks later, Euclid’s football team had to play in Brunswick following violence at two prior home games and recent fights near the high school.Hard on that decision, Solon High School’s football team canceled its Euclid away game, with Euclid ultimately plugging the hole that left in its schedule by bringing in a team from Michigan for its senior night.And the headaches continued as Cleveland Heights limited spectators for its Oct.13 home game against Euclid to family members of players, band members and cheerleaders.At about the same time, a teen’s shooting near its campus prompted Central Catholic High School in Cleveland’s Broadway-Slavic Village neighborhood to move its homecoming game to an “off-site location.”None of this makes the season fun and exciting for anyone, but most notably, and sadly, especially not for the students most directly involved -- the players, band members and cheerleaders.Other than moving games, canceling games or forcing games to be played without spectators -- while taking more proactive measures to address youth and gun violence -- what can or should be done? Our Editorial Board roundtable offers its thoughts.Leila Atassi, manager public interest and advocacy:This solution might seem too obvious, but these cities should simply increase police presence on game nights.Anyone who is there to enjoy football or the company of friends will feel grateful and secure, and troublemakers will avoid the stadium altogether.It won’t solve the problems underlying youth violence, but Friday nights will be fun again.Ted Diadiun, columnist:Growing up in New Jersey, we played high school football on Saturday afternoons – because our schools didn’t have lights, not because school administrators were afraid we’d get shot.I’d never seen a Friday night game before I played in one after we moved here, and I much preferred the sun-splashed afternoons of glorious memory.If that’s safer, too, so much the better.Thomas Suddes, editorial writer:There are few good answers, given the universal availability of guns and increasing aggression in public life. But it looks as if attendance restrictions -- only people allowed to attend will be related somehow to players -- may be a likely default.Eric Foster, columnist:I feel like violence (or threats of it) at high school football games isn’t new.Violence off the field has never been far from the violence on it.That said, I never heard of canceling or moving games, or restricting fans as viable responses.These games strengthen relationships between schools and their communities.Is there no money to increase security?Lisa Garvin, editorial board member:A toxic cocktail of overzealous parents attacking game referees, youths weaponizing social media to threaten violent acts at school events, and easy access to guns is ruining a cherished ritual for the rest of us. How do we change the moral compass of wrongdoers who willfully ignore the consequences of their actions?Sadly, I don’t have the answer.Mary Cay Doherty, editorial board member:Notably, only a tiny fraction of Northeast Ohio’s many high schools move, adapt, or cancel games for security reasons.For those schools, however, cowing to bad actors may only serve to embolden more bad actors.Regrettably, particularly vulnerable high school stadiums may need costly enhanced safety measures like metal detectors, clear bag requirements, and bag inspections.Elizabeth Sullivan, opinion director:High school football games should not feel like an armed camp, but it’s evident better security and admissions limitations are needed, at least in the short term, to change the optics and make the scene feel safer for everyone.Saving Friday night football is worth the extra effort and expense. How sad, though, that it’s come to this.Have something to say about this topic?* Send a letter to the editor, which will be considered for print publication.* Email general questions about our editorial board or comments or corrections on this Editorial Board Roundtable to Elizabeth Sullivan, director of opinion, at [email protected] you purchase a product or register for an account through a link on our site, we may receive compensation.By using this site, you consent to our User Agreement and agree that your clicks, interactions, and personal information may be collected, recorded, and/or stored by us and social media and other third-party partners in accordance with our Privacy Policy.

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