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A response to negative feedback against the Rhode Island football community

Tollman Tigers Football

A Providence Journal Bulletin “journalist” recently published an article about how people associated with RI football need to “stop being selfish”. I would like to bring clarity to the many misrepresentations in this article and present clear facts on this matter. Everyone associated with RI Football was extremely disappointed because of the decision to not play this Fall. To make matters worse, a decision was made that other sports can be played this Fall. The reasons why some sports were chosen over others is still up for debate however, the main concern was that some sports would create a greater risk for transmission of COVID 19.

If you know Football, the #1 concern is SAFETY. There are 36 states that have figured out strict safety protocols for COVID and are playing right now. Please check out Max Preps and ESPN for proof of this. So, the question is, why can’t RI do the same? The stats from the CDC back up the fact that RI can play. Of the states that are playing, there are only a few that have lower or comparable COVID numbers than RI. RI was on the forefront of COVID transmission prevention during the peak of the crisis. The effort was good enough to move RI to Phase 3. This gave all athletes hope that a season will happen. This hope was realized by some athletes in RI but not all. The lingering question of “why football can’t be played” still remains.

You must look at this situation from the perspective that the RI Football community is seeing other states play Football and other sports play in RI. This is rubbing salt in the wound. Soccer is being played this Fall. In Soccer, there is plenty of close contact and players normally do not wear any equipment that could aid in the prevention of transmission. Football can easily add equipment to lower the risk of transmission. Need proof? Look no further than what the 36 other states are doing. They are adding splashguards, special mouthpieces and going above and beyond already strict protocols to ensure safety for all participants.

As easy as it is to buy a few more pieces of equipment and follow protocols like other states, RI Football is not being allowed to exercise this option. Instead, players, coaches and parents are voicing their frustrations on the internet and at rallies. Players are dealing with the reality that potential plans to play Football past HS might be in serious jeopardy. Seniors are dealing with the fact that they worked hard for 3 years and might not have a senior season. Many players are dealing with mental health issues due to this decision. This is a topic that is not being discussed right now.

It is easy for anyone to sit at their computer and type nonfactual comments about a situation they are not in and obviously do not comprehend. To make light of people for speaking out against an extremely unfair situation just adds to the frustration of it all. This “journalist” just went on the record and called the student athletes, parents and all who wanted to voice their opinion “selfish”. I commend all, especially the student athletes, for using all platforms given to them instead of going another route.

Then he goes on to state that “it’s fairly likely that they will play in the Spring”. Let us briefly talk about the Spring option. One should know that outside conditions in RI are not favorable for outdoor sports until the end of April/beginning of May. I have seen that the proposed season is supposed to start around the middle/end of March. I know from experience that Parks and Rec’s Departments in RI, do not give permits for fields until the middle/end of April. In addition, there is no guarantee that COVID 19 numbers will stay at the level they have currently been at. With these scenarios in play for the Spring, what do you think the probability of a Spring season may be? The factors of weather, field conditions and the chance of COVID numbers rising are real. That makes this situation even more unstable come Springtime.

This “journalist” then has the audacity to be critical of parents that are making the decision to play in the CT league by stating “it takes a special type of parent to let their child partake in football from October to December then in March and April.” This statement gives me an opportunity to have a teachable moment for this “journalist” who is supposed to be in the know about this sport. If this “journalist” took the time to venture outside New England, he would find that plenty of parents “let their child partake” in Fall Football and Spring Football. This is quite common in the southern states and I would recommend it to states up north when the fields are suitable to accommodate such activities. These “special kind of parents’ aren’t frowned upon down South. They are respected. Respect is something this “journalist” might want to learn when addressing parent’s right to decide what is best for their HS student athlete.

Your attempts to smear people thinking outside the box while keeping the best interest of the players who want to play at all costs is laughable. Your childish attempts to call many in the RI Football community “selfish” because they want to voice their frustrations on any platform is a disgrace. Claiming those who chose to speak up and act against this decision “know more” than the doctors while doctors elsewhere have given the green light to play this sport is just silly.

I chose to speak up because I felt that my voice could reach places that other’s might not. I am a coach, I am a current HS official, I train these athletes and I mentor them. This isn’t about me. My time has passed. I did what I could do and it is now my time to give back to future generations of RI athletes. It’s also my time to be a voice for the voiceless. I know the window of opportunity to play Football past HS is small. Especially in RI. To have this taken away with the uncertainty of a Spring season is unsettling for the players and parents. I refuse to stay silent, regardless of what you call those who dared to speak up. Not that I care. Being critical of people voicing their concern about the unfairness of this situation are not whiners, “selfish” or unprofessional. To call them that is simply Un-American.

Your article only confirms how out of touch you are with RI Football and how unprofessional your approach is towards this whole situation. You owe the parents and most of all the players a sincere apology for the ridiculous statements typed in your article. I won’t hold my breath.

Emerson Kilgore

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