Update at 9 p.m.
Vermont’s school sports governing body plans to ban journalists, photographers and fans from attending a football game between Enosburg Falls High School and Winooski High School on Tuesday afternoon – an unusual move which he said would help ensure the safety of players on both teams.
Only players, coaches, officials and school administrators will be allowed to attend the state semi-final game, the Vermont Principals’ Association said in a statement. declaration On Monday.
“We see this as the best way to move forward and ensure the physical and emotional safety of all children involved,” Jay Nichols, executive director of the association, said in an interview. “A lot of people forget that this is supposed to be about children.”
The two teams haven’t faced each other since September 18 when, according to a statement from school principal Winooski, Enosburg Falls High players and fans launched racist language against Winooski High players of color.
An Oct. 18 regular season game between the two teams has been called off. But since the two made the state playoffs, they now have to face each other again.
Last month, an internal investigation by Enosburg Falls High officials found no evidence that racist language was used during the September 18 game. But officials felt their investigation was incomplete as they were unable to interview Winooski’s players.
Nichols said on Monday that the decision to ban reporters and fans from Tuesday’s game came after discussions with officials, but not students, from both school districts.
“Winooski has the right to restrict who comes to their event by law,” he said. “So they chose to do it, with our full support. ”
In a statement, Winooski School District Superintendent Sean McMannon said he was “fully supportive and in agreement with the VPA’s decision to ensure the physical and emotional safety of all student-athletes involved. by closing the match to the public “.
Nichols said that to his knowledge this would be the first time spectators and media have been excluded from a school sports game in Vermont, excluding Covid-19 restrictions.
In an email to Nichols, VTDigger deputy editor-in-chief Maggie Cassidy said the news agency “strongly opposes” the association’s plan to ban media from the match, saying the journalists and photographers need access to the games to observe the action on and off the field.
“On the contrary, I would say that these two missions are made more important when general spectators are not allowed to attend a match, not less, and are more important for games like this, where the VPA is. deeply involved in a conflict issue between the two teams, ”Cassidy said.
“If asked, I would agree not to interview the players,” said Alex Abrami, sports reporter for Burlington Free Press. tweeted Monday, in reaction to the association’s decision. “Members of the media, as partial observers, should be allowed to attend and report. “
The game will be played at Burlington High School on Tuesday at 3:30 p.m. in the Winooski School District said on twitter. A livestream will also be available online.
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