“Civil” Sports Disobedience - Granite Grok

“Civil” Sports Disobedience

In 1991 I returned to New Hampshire after being activated by the Marines for Operation Desert Storm, aka Persian Gulf War I. The happy homecoming will always be a fond memory. Some things had changed in my absence, of course, but time marches on.

Related: A Message From Coach Brad Keyes – Fired For Refusing to Make Track Athletes Wear Masks While Competing

In resuming my civilian duties as a college sports information director, I noted that in my absence the campus administration issued a dictum that the term “freshman” was no longer “de rigueur,” due to its sexist taint. In its place, we were to use the expression “first-year student.”

The diktat troubled me for a couple of reasons. Firstly, as a wordsmith, I resented words being taken away from me. Secondly, as a practical matter, sports writing became a bit more unwieldy.

Instead of referring to “freshman point guard Jane Doe” I would need to write “first-year student point guard Jane Doe.” But in the college sports world, there are so-called “red-shirt freshmen,” second-year students who still have four years of eligibility. Second-year students are sometimes considered freshmen, eligibility-wise.

At the time the college had a wonderful women’s basketball coach named Nancy Feldman. A fellow wag asked if we should now refer to her as Coach Feldperson.

Sportswriters can be cheeky.

Anyway, having just returned from the war, and “feeling my oats,” I decided to challenge the administration’s policy. I wrote a long letter explaining in detail why I had issues with the new requirement, and I respectfully explained that I could not adhere to it. I acknowledged that the administration certainly had the right to make its own policies and that it certainly had the right to terminate me for not following its policies.

The fellow wag asked me if that was really a hill I wanted to die on. Did I want to lose my job over not using the word “freshman?” But it was a matter of principle for me. And with a background in PR, my sense was that the college perhaps didn’t want to fire someone who’d just returned from a war for not being politically correct. I suppose it was a game of chicken, so to speak.

The college blinked and gave me special dispensation to continue using the dreaded “freshman” word.

So one can occasionally challenge “the man” and prevail. (An aside: One also learns that “the man” never forgets!)

This brings us to Pembroke Academy track and field coach Brad Keyes, who was fired for refusing to require his athletes to wear masks while competing. PA’s masking policy reflected that of the interscholastic sports establishment.

Keyes protested online, explaining his perspective, and writing “Fire me if you must.”

According to press accounts, Keyes stated that “There’s no rationale to it, there’s no consistency to it and I felt like I would be lying to the kids in telling them that it makes any sense.”

Keyes could have resigned in protest but chose to face termination in order to better shine a light on what he—and many others—felt was a ludicrous situation.

Why indeed are young athletes competing outdoors—not in close proximity to other athletes—forced to wear masks that inhibit breathing? The foolish requirement can actually cause separate medical problems. Other coaches winked and nodded and looked the other way when masks “slipped” below noses and mouths. But Keyes chose not to “play games.”

Kudos to Keyes for his principled integrity which cost him some income and while also costing his athletes the benefit of his expertise.

Bad rules and stupid laws create rule-breakers and law-breakers while encouraging contempt for said laws and the authorities who impose them.

Even young freshmen probably understand that.


State Representative Mike Moffett of Loudon is a former Marine, retired professor, and current sports columnist.

Editors note: LocalLink added to original