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Student-athletes protest Omaha Public School's decision to cancel Fall sports

Posted at 11:25 PM, Sep 01, 2020

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Omaha Public School student-athletes, coaches and family members are speaking out against the district’s decision to suspend Fall athletics due to COVID-19

Roughly 200 of them gathered at the corner of 30th and Burt, asking OPS to change their mind.

“We are all very passionate about what we do, so we want to play,” Payton Royal, a junior at Burke High School, said. “We want to do our thing and we want to cheer our school on.”

Many are upset that surrounding districts are allowing their students to have games, but OPS is not.

“That’s just a big slap in the face to the kids of OPS," volunteer football coach Desmond Prusia said.

Many of the student-athletes say it’s not just about being on the court or the field this fall, it’s about the opportunities they could miss.

“I’ve been playing football since I was seven. It’s all I know,” senior football player Veshawn Lovelace said. “Losing this season is losing a lot of opportunity to play college ball and get the opportunity to go into college.”

One man, who says his life was changed by high school sports, stood alongside Tuesday’s protesters.

Former OPS grad and Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Rodgers says parents should have been able to make the call, adding he’s disappointed in the District’s decision

“I don’t know if they have the right. This is not a democracy, anymore” Rodgers said. “I guess it’s a dictatorship. They are just dictating what they really want to happen and doing it against the will of the people.”

OPS says suspending fall sports was not a decision made lightly, adding group workouts, weightlifting and games cannot take place in “a safe and responsible manner.”

However, many disagree.

“Don’t let this be a political thing," Cindy White said. “We see all the other schools playing, we see parents taking precautions. We see schools taking precautions and OPS can take precautions.”

OPS says they are actively looking for alternative options for student-athletes to compete, but now is not the time.

The district is working closely with the Douglas County Health Department to monitor COVID cases in Metro-area.