Though there are certainly exceptions, face masks have been made mandatory at all times in many parts of the country, even while outdoors and engaged in physical activities in some locations.
Such is the case in New Hampshire, where a high school track and field coach was fired this week after refusing to force his young athletes to comply with the mask mandate during outdoor competitions, Fox News reported.
The termination of coach Bradley Keyes by Pembroke Academy administrators was likely inevitable, though, given the manner in which he had essentially dared the Concord-area school to fire him in a bid to raise attention to what he viewed as a ridiculous and unnecessary mandate requiring masks be worn by student-athletes at all times during outdoor competitions.
“Fire me if you must”
An op-ed column in the Concord Monitor noted that the New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association (NHIAA) had issued recommendations that all student-athletes competing in spring sports, with few exceptions, should wear face masks at all times, even while engaged in a competition.
Those NHIAA recommendations were turned into a requirement by Pembroke Academy Athletic Director Fred Vezina, but Coach Keyes wasn’t a fan, and rather than quietly resign, he decided to make the issue public by posting on the school’s website — titled Fire Me If You Must — his own commentary about “this insane, irrational, stupid decision” along with an email he had sent to Vezina explaining his fervent opposition to the athletic mask mandate.
In the email, Keyes got right to the point and wrote, “I will not put kids on the track and tell them to run any races while wearing masks.”
He proceeded to offer up several legitimate science-based objections to argue against the mandate but then set all those aside to say, “No, the real reason I won’t do it is because it’s senseless, irrational, cowardice bulls— and I will not help cover that up.”
“I will not stand up in front of the kids and lie to them and tell them that these masks are doing anything worthwhile out in an open field with wind blowing and the sun shining,” or that the masks were “necessary or sensible” or that the students themselves were “at some grave risk and the masks are going to save them.”
Noting that he believed the mandate was less about protecting students and more about protecting bureaucrats, Keyes made it clear that he would refuse to participate in the “insane policies” that were “taking a bad situation and making it needlessly, and cruelly, worse.”
Fired for “unprofessionalism”
As he had anticipated, Keyes was fired, ostensibly for his “unprofessionalism” and refusal to uphold school policies, he explained Friday during an interview with Fox News host Tucker Carlson.
He further explained how he himself had worn a mask while running races on the track to experience the effects firsthand. “I knew it would be bad,” he said. “Everything has to come through the fabric. It takes extremely exhausting races and makes them significantly worse.”
In the end, he wasn’t overly concerned about being fired from the part-time job, saying, “I put their backs against the wall. I didn’t give them much of a choice. I was hoping for a reaction because I wanted to get some other people to start talking. My goal is to get these mandates removed. It’s not just track and field. It’s tennis, baseball; every outdoor sport.”