GLEN BURNIE, Md. (WJZ) — The fate of some youth sports programs still hang in the balance for counties across Maryland due to the coronavirus pandemic.

In Anne Arundel County, youth football has been canceled, and now protests are erupting because athletes want their seasons and parents want their kids to play.

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“The parents want their kids to play, we have been following protocols like sanitizing the ball and temperature checks. The parents have been screaming ‘Our kids, our choice,’” Coach Derek Edwards said.

Protesters in Anne Arundel County on Tuesday called on County Executive Steuart Pittman to reopen youth football. John Sweeney, 13, is demanding answers.


“I asked him how he would feel if he had played a sport his whole life, and how would it feel to get cut short before high school,” Sweeney said.

“It kind of broke my heart because I’ve been playing since I was little,” he added.

Sweeney said Pittman’s answer only makes him want to fight harder.

The season started with conditioning and practice in late May. Six weeks later, the season was cancelled just a few weeks before the first game.

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2000 kids are in the league, each paying upwards of $150 to play with nothing to show for it except a clean jersey that will never be worn.

As other youth sports continue on in their seasons, the football community calls the decision unfair.

“If there’s a good reason give us the facts, but we haven’t been able to get those,” Coach Alan McIntire said.

Coaches argue many of their athletes need the program for more than just the game.

“If I didn’t get good grades, I couldn’t play football. It kept a lot of people out of the street out of trouble,” McIntire said. “We coach life not just go out there catch a ball Johnny run hard, I wouldn’t have turned out how I did it it wasn’t for the guys I had as a youth.”

County Executive Pittman said in a statement:

“Anne Arundel County, like all other Maryland counties, has followed the Maryland Sports Commission’s Return to Play guidance, assessing tackle football as “high risk” and stating that it is “closed” during Stage 2 of the state’s Roadmap to Recovery. Teams continue to practice and we are encouraging them to play as flag football.”

Gov. Hogan said during a press conference on Tuesday that, “the State of Maryland, through the Maryland Department of Health, issued an order allowing for all youth sports in Maryland to resume.”

Note: A day after these protests and Gov. Hogan’s announcement for Stage Three reopening, youth tackle sports are now allowed in Anne Arundel County. Read the update here. 

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For the latest information on coronavirus go to the Maryland Health Department’s website or call 211. You can find all of WJZ’s coverage on coronavirus in Maryland here.

Rachael Cardin