Women’s Basketball Petitions University: “Let Fordham Women’s Basketball Play”

NOTE: This article originally appeared in The Fordham Ram in February 2021.

The Fordham women’s basketball team worked all season to follow COVID-19 protocols. The team has taken 1,400 tests for the virus over the past six months without a positive test. Strictly judging by the numbers, the team has abided by health and safety protocols without contributing to rapidly spreading disease spread both on and off-campus.

But on Sunday, the Rams’ season hit an indefinite roadblock. 

Due to Fordham clearing 100 active COVID-19 cases on the Rose Hill campus, the University has placed a two-week pause on all in-person campus activities. That includes Fordham Athletics. Like it is for all of Fordham’s clubs and organizations, this pause is extremely difficult to navigate for Fordham’s basketball teams, who are entering the final weeks of their respective seasons. For the Fordham women’s basketball team, this is a particularly bitter pill to swallow; Fordham was in second place in the Atlantic 10 at the time of the shutdown, having won the previous five games. 

Because of this shutdown, which would also hamper the team’s ability to compete in the Atlantic 10 tournament the first week in March, the team is turning to an online petition for support.

Junior forward Kaitlyn Downey has started a change.org petition to reinstate the team’s schedule for the final weeks of the season. 

“We have trusted our University and now we are asking you to trust us now,” the petition reads. “With our backs against the wall, we are asking for the Fordham Administration to not walk away from us now. We have an incredibly strong travel plan, Doctor’s approvals and funding plan that we have prepared to make our reality.” In addition, Downey writes that the team has agreed to sign waivers that would absolve the University of liability in the event a player or staff member becomes ill.

“It’s extremely disappointing,” Downey says of the shutdown. “Being a program that has 25+ people part of it, in a geographical location that’s highly impacted by COVID-19 and still to remain negative for over six months, is an incredible feat. We just don’t feel like that’s being recognized.”

Due to New York state guidelines set forth by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in August, Universities that reach 100 COVID-19 cases in a span of two weeks, that school must go to remote learning for two weeks, as Fordham has done. Cuomo’s guidelines state that during a period like the one Fordham is in now,  “in-person athletic events, extracurricular programs and other non-essential student activities must be suspended.” Within the petition, Downey writes that the team is willing to complete its season on the road if need be.

Downey also says that the team has followed all the University protocols, including thrice-a-week testing and maintaining little social contact with people from outside the team.

“Now, we’re just asking the University to trust us just like we have trusted them these past six months,” she says.

As of publishing, the petition has over 1600 signatures in just a few hours online. Downey says it is gratifying to get such a level of support from the Fordham community and supporters of the team.

“It’s an incredible feeling, just to know that there’s a community supporting us so strongly,” she says. “We’ve sacrificed so much these past six months and we know other people have made tremendous sacrifices, as well, and we never want to discount that. We just know we have a pressing deadline that is really to change what our season looks like. Knowing all the work we’ve put in and all the sacrifices everyone has made that is a part of this journey, we’re just hoping to see a result that we would love to be able to participate in.”

The petition also concludes, “The players of Fordham Women’s Basketball understand the gravity of this situation and are confident that our support would be reciprocated to any other program within the Fordham Community.” 

It is unclear how much this petition will change the team’s current situation. Downey told The Ram that the team sent an email to Rev. Joseph M. McShane, S.J., president of the university on Monday, but is yet to receive a response. She says the team is looking for an explanation as to why the outcome of the season has been taken out of their hands, and to speak with him as to how to rectify the situation.

“As we know, this world that we live in has not been the most positive place recently,” Downey says. “We are just looking for little sparks of hope, of just being to play a couple more basketball games. This team is really special and we just want to keep being able to seek those rewards that we’ve been pushing for all season long.”

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