HAMPTON, Tenn. (WJHL) — Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee’s Executive Order 74 has put an end to the cheer and dance team season, across the state citing the risk of spreading COVID-19.
Parents are frustrated as other sports teams are allowed to play.
News Channel 11’s Pheben Kassahun spoke with parents and cheerleaders to get their take on the matter.
“I’m just really concerned about the discrimination, the double standards. I don’t want to put any athlete in a position where they are forced to have to stop playing any sport. I just want equality for all of them,” Hampton High School cheer mother Jarilyn Campbell said.
Not a pom pom in sight at Hampton High School, as its cheerleaders begin to come to terms with reality: no dance or cheer for the rest of the season.
“They took every precaution that they needed to as far as COVID was concerned. They split up on both sides of the court because the opposing team cheerleaders aren’t allowed to be here, so that gives them an opportunity to social distance,” Campbell said. “The basketball players, they can run up and down the court and in each other’s faces mask-less. The refs are running up and down this same court with these boys that they’re not in their immediate homes.”
Executive Order 74 is an extension of Executive Order 70, which does not allow dance or cheerleaders to practice or to attend games, due to respiratory droplets beings spread when cheering, potentially spreading COVID-19 at basketball games.
“We got two games in, one varsity game and one JV game,” Hampton High School senior cheer captain Haley Taylor said. “We really didn’t know what to do about the situation. I talked to my coach, and I thought it was kind of discriminatory towards us considering grandparents, teachers, other ballplayers like they can all play and we only cheered home games, to begin with. So, that’s all we got to do.”
The girls have not cheered for more than a month, causing some setbacks for their plans to play at the collegiate level, like senior Sophie Cable who plans to cheer for Milligan University.
Hampton senior cheerleader, Sophie Cable said: “I’m just so glad that their program is willing to work with me with the COVID situation. She understands that we didn’t have practice. The stunting process of everything was all delayed so they don’t even know what stunts we get to do.”
Kassahun reached out to TSSAA for comment and here is what organization had to say:
“TSSAA inquired with the Governor’s office about allowing Cheerleaders and Dance Teams to participate, but the amended Order maintains the temporary suspension of cheerleading and dance at contests. Our understanding from the Governor’s Office is that this provision was a risk-based decision at this critical time based on the best medical and CDC information and guidance available regarding the spread of COVID-19 primarily through respiratory droplets, with cheerleading posing a particularly high degree of risk because it involves projected voices within a confined indoor space for an extended period of time.”Matthew Gillespie
Assistant Executive Director
To make matters worse, the Hampton cheerleaders said they may not even have a senior night.
“Since we can’t have basketball, like we can’t cheer, there is no point in us…they’ll try a virtual senior night, but what good does that do us? We’ve waited our whole lives,” senior cheerleader Gracie Crumley said. “Our athletic director is working on getting us a senior night, like to have us there whenever they do it but the way it’s looking, I don’t feel like we’re going to get to. We can’t even be in the gym.”
Taylor said: “We have a very great support system with our school. Our coaches have been very supportive and I just hope that Governor Bill Lee would be supportive for us also.”
We reached out to various athletic directors in the region but none responded before this story aired.
A petition is also circulating in the state to bring awareness to the situation and has already surpassed its goal of 10,000 signatures. That petition can be found here.