For the first time in the 99-year history of the program, members of the Kent State football team received rings Aug. 17 for winning a bowl game.
A video posted to the Kent State football Twitter account the same day shows some of the players walking up to tables inside Dix Stadium to receive the rings, which commemorate the team’s Dec. 20, 2019, victory in the Tropical Smoothie Cafe Frisco Bowl. At least six players are not wearing face masks and some shake hands with the various football personnel who are distributing the rings.
In addition, several players are not wearing masks while sitting in the stands— some are sitting directly behind other players in adjacent rows and appear to be less than six feet apart. All of the coaches shown in the video are wearing some kind of face covering. At one point in the video, Coach Sean Lewis is shown adjusting a gaiter so it covers his nose.
University policies related to coronavirus prevention, called the “Flashes Safe Seven,” state simply that wearing “face coverings are required,” and that they are “a critical component” of its principles. Additionally, employees who are present on campus are required to acknowledge and follow the "Employee on Campus Work Procedures for Fall." Failure to comply with the university’s safety procedures “may result in disciplinary action up to and including termination of employment as provided in university policy and/or applicable collective bargaining agreements.”
An Aug. 21 email sent by Vice President of Student Affairs Lamar Hylton stated the university could “take student disciplinary action against students and student organizations for violating health and safety rules and guidance.” According to the email, the disciplinary action can include probation, suspension or expulsion. The email also stated that even though this is something Kent State administrators can do, it isn’t something they want to do.
“While this is something that we can and will do in the name of health and safety, we don’t want to have to take these measures,” the email stated.
KentWired originally asked Lewis about wearing masks on Aug. 20. Lewis responded briefly.
“We’re wearing them,” he said.
When KentWired asked specifically about the players not wearing masks in the video, the Athletic Department provided the following statement from Lewis via email.
“Our team is expected to abide by the Flashes Safe Seven, which mandates that masks be worn while on campus,” Lewis stated. “In this case, all players should have worn masks for the ceremony. Going forward, we must be better, we must hold each other accountable, to ensure we set a strong example for our community.”
Lewis has spoken in the past about the safety measures used by the team to protect players, including how often players are tested for COVID-19.
“We are following all of the university policies implemented by the university president and all of our medical advisory committees, as well as the return to campus committee,” Lewis said on Aug. 20. “Within the realm of athletics we whirled through a testing protocol and are currently testing 25 percent of the team every other week in accordance with the NCAA guidelines, as well.”
Dante Centofanti is a sports reporter. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.