‘We want to watch them play’: N.C. parents petition for more than 100 people at outdoor high school athletic events

Updated: Feb. 8, 2021 at 6:00 PM EST
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WEDDINGTON, N.C. (WBTV) - Nearly 17,000 people have signed an online petition asking Gov. Roy Cooper to change the guidelines for mass gatherings at high school athletic events.

Per Executive Order 169, only 100 spectators are allowed at high school outdoor games.

But parents say for bigger teams, that barely allows for both parents to be at the game.

Siblings and grandparents wouldn’t be allowed at all. Those parents are asking for the capacity limit to be increased so families can watch their children play while also keeping everyone safe.

Meagen O’Connell’s son, Camp plays football at Weddington High School.

“For a football team with a roster for 45 and we have cheerleader and band parents, that’s not even one ticket per athlete,” said O’Connell.

Although teams, coaches, event staff and other athletes don’t count toward the capacity, the 100-person limit is going to make it so parents and other family members aren’t allowed on the bleachers.

It’s not just a challenge for the parents, but for players too.

Many are seniors who say they want their family to be there when they take the field for the last time.

”The main thing is with my parents, I want them to be there to see this,” said Weddington High School senior Evan Schwartz. “This is everything they’ve done. This is what it’s leading up to. It’s hard they might not be able to see that.”

The 100-person limit was set to comply with state executive orders for mass gatherings.

However, O’Connell said many high school stadiums, including Warrior Stadium, can fit thousands of fans.

At the current 100-person limit, the stadium will be at 2 percent capacity.

She believes there is a way to allow more family members inside the stadium while keeping everyone safe.

“The end goal is just to have parents, both parents, grandparents, watch their kids play,” O”Connell said. “That’s it. We’re not asking for a full stadium. We want people to wear masks, socially distance, do all that stuff. We just want to watch our kids play.”

O’Connell started the petition on Friday. In a matter of days, it reached more than 16,000 signatures from parents, players and people all over the state.

She’s hoping Governor Cooper will make an adjustment to his guidelines, or leave it up to the county athletic directors to make the call.

“What we want is for families to watch their kids play,” O’Connell said.

She thinks somewhere between 5-10 percent capacity would keep people safe while still allowing for more family members to get to watch their children play.

So far, they have not received an answer from the state.

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