The Richmond City Council agreed Monday to advance a pair of police reforms but drew a line at what two council members described as a move to “defund the police.”
After the nightly street protests turned violent over the weekend — resulting in fires, damage to buildings and nearly two dozen arrests — the City Council agreed on first steps to establish a civilian review board for police and new protocols for police responding to a person experiencing a mental health crisis.
The council’s actions Monday bring the city closer to addressing demands of local protesters amid a nationwide movement for racial justice and an end to police brutality.
But in a 7-2 vote, the council declined to ask Mayor Levar Stoney’s administration to examine the Richmond Police Department budget for money that could be diverted to mental health and substance abuse programs.
Council members Stephanie Lynch and Michael Jones, who both endorsed the proposal, were the only ones to vote for the resolution.
In a news release before the meeting, council members Kim Gray and Kristen Larson said they are opposed to the resolution, saying it lacks clear policy direction with no consideration of the COVID-19 pandemic and the social unrest’s impact on the local economy.
In an interview before Monday’s meeting, Gray, who is running for mayor and has been critical of the protests, said the resolution co-signed by Lynch and Jones is “an attempt to check a box.”
“We need more information about budget implications and where we are,” Gray said. “We are in a financial crisis.”
Jones accused Gray and Larson of “fear-mongering.”
In an interview ahead of the meeting, Jones said he takes particular issue with the two describing the proposal as a preliminary step to “defund the police,” a popular protest slogan that has sowed debate over whether it should be interpreted as a call for abolishing law enforcement or reallocating public money to other areas.
“We’re just asking the police to look at what they spend their money on, where in their budget crosses over into social services, and to make recommendations,” Jones said. “That’s it.”
Police Chief Gerald Smith has said he supports the creation of the civilian review board but spoke against Lynch and Jones’ proposal at Monday’s meeting, saying that “words matter.”
He said the resolution implies a “loss of faith and lack of support” that could drain officer morale and exacerbate such problems as attrition, long response times and police misconduct.
“We should fund change. I’ll examine our budget head to toe in the spirit of improvement. But first I need to change a misconception that the RPD budget is up for grabs like it were a yard sale,” he said. “Let’s work together to build a better RPD.”
About half a dozen speakers afterward implored the council to adopt the resolution anyway, questioning whether the public can trust the police to assist in reforming local law enforcement.
Despite the opposition to budget resolution, the council unanimously endorsed steps toward the establishment of a civilian review board and the Marcus Alert protocol for police.
The council-appointed review board would be charged with laying the groundwork for an oversight body that could investigate complaints and other incidents involving the Richmond Police Department. The board would be responsible for submitting a final report with recommendations for its framework and a proposed annual budget by March 1.
The Marcus Alert is named for Marcus-David Peters, a Black school teacher who was killed by Richmond police in 2018 while he was experiencing a mental health crisis. Peters threatened to kill the officer and charged him before he was shot.
Over the past two years, activists and members of his family have advocated for the city to create a new system requiring mental health professionals be the first responders to a mental health crisis. Police would still serve as backup in those situations.
The resolution directs the mayor’s administration to work with a member of the council to develop a plan for its implementation by Oct. 1.
The city prosecutor at the time cleared the officer who shot Peters. Activists in the recent protests have called on the current prosecutor, Commonwealth’s Attorney Colette McEachin, to reopen the case and to drop all protest-related charges from the past two months.
Last month, after protesters demonstrated outside her home, McEachin said her office does not respond to public demands, but rather responds to the law and facts of a case.
Police swarmed a group of roughly 50 people and cleared Monroe Park late Sunday, making 17 arrests throughout a second night of flare-ups between demonstrators and officers.
Speaking at Richmond police headquarters against the backdrop of a city dump truck that had been lit ablaze over the weekend, Police Chief Gerald Smith characterized officers’ actions as proactive in response to a flyer advertising Sunday’s demonstration.
Smith described the flyer as intimidating and “wanting to produce fear” in the city of Richmond. The flyer included the phrases “This is just the beginning” and “Richmond will not stop” in all capital letters, as well as expletives directed at police, white supremacy and fascism.
Its verbiage was similar to a flyer circulated ahead of Saturday night’s protests, which ended with six arrests and widespread property damage. Based on the flyer, Smith said RPD “knew violence was coming” and began arresting individuals gathered in Monroe Park shortly after 10 p.m., which was the starting time advertised for the demonstration.
Protesters have rallied in Monroe Park on numerous occasions, including both before and after nightfall. Rarely has their nighttime presence in the park prompted mass arrests.
“Monroe Park is clearly closed at dusk,” Smith said.
Some demonstrators were tackled and handcuffed on the peripheries of the park, others after they had crossed the street. Richmond geographic information system data shows that the sidewalks encircling Monroe Park are not part of the park itself.
Police just ambushed protesters at Monroe Park. Some protesters were tackled. It happened fast, just as I arrived on scene, I got as much as I could. I heard police saying “if they’re in the park, grab them. @RTDNEWS pic.twitter.com/ZM4DFODIWe— Zach Joachim (@ZachJoachim) July 27, 2020
Police could be heard yelling, “If they’re in the park, grab them” and telling protesters and reporters alike, “Keep moving or go to jail.” A student journalist from The Commonwealth Times, Virginia Commonwealth University’s student-run newspaper, was briefly detained while attempting to exit the park.
Smith said individuals who were arrested outside of or while exiting park grounds were “unlawfully in the park first.”
“When the police came, and they knew — and I think they knew — that they were violating the rules of the law, they tried to remove themselves,” he said. “They had already broken the law before we caught them on the sidewalk.”
Six individuals were charged only with trespassing. Another adult was arrested for blocking traffic, not wearing a seat belt and not having a driver’s license in his possession.
Three others were charged with transporting a loaded rifle within city limits. Two other people were charged with rioting with a weapon, a felony.
Other charges include possessing a weapon with an extended magazine, rioting, pedestrian in the roadway, showing a false ID to police to avoid arrest, and possession with intent to deliver crack cocaine.
Those arrested range in age from 17 to 45 and include people who indicated they are from Richmond, Henrico County, Williamsburg, Falls Church and Herndon, authorities said. VCU police assisted RPD with seven of the 17 arrests.
Smith said three fires were set overnight Sunday into Monday and that windows had been smashed, including at VCU police headquarters.
“No chemical munitions were deployed last night,” he said.
Protesters later regrouped on Sunday night below the Robert E. Lee monument at the informally renamed Marcus-David Peters Circle. About double the number of people who originally gathered at Monroe Park then marched east on Broad Street to Sixth Street along with dozens of bicyclists and cars.
The march made a U-turn at East Broad and North Sixth streets and headed back toward the VCU campus. After stopping briefly at the corner of West Broad and Belvidere streets, the march was met by a line of police in riot gear at the corner of West Broad and North Hancock streets.
Police declared an unlawful assembly at that point, and marchers turned right on North Hancock before dispersing without direct confrontation with the police.
During the march, a dumpster across from the Dunkin’ Donuts on Goshen Street was set ablaze.
Smith said he recognizes protesters’ First Amendment right to demonstrate, but added that the flyers were trying to “stir it up” after 24 previous days of protests in Richmond that were free of significant clashes between demonstrators and police.
Referring to some of those involved in this past weekend’s protests, he said, “I don’t think they’re interested in it stopping.”
Smith said many protesters have made their message heard in recent weeks and that “many of those individuals have returned to their lives and are making a difference from where they sit and actually started to have conversations from the table from where they sit, to actually make change.”
“I’m not quite sure what the individuals who are left on the street, especially here in the last two days — I don’t think they’re interested in it stopping,” he added. “So right now, RPD will continue our stance and that is to make the city of Richmond safe. And we will also, for those who want to protest, we will help facilitate that First Amendment right.”
During the protests Saturday night, a reporter from the Richmond Times-Dispatch and one from The Commonwealth Times were nearly detained in the aftermath of the unrest at RPD headquarters. Both were running from the scene after being disoriented by the chemical agents and flash-bangs that were used, when they stopped in a parking lot and were surrounded by more than five police officers.
Officers forced them against a wall and bound their hands behind their back while they repeatedly identified themselves as working press and showed state-issued press badges. They were eventually released.
Smith told The Times-Dispatch on Sunday afternoon that he will make a thorough inquiry into the incident and that it will be under review.
During Monday’s news conference, Smith said tense confrontations between protesters and police prompt officers to look “very carefully” at those who claim to be members of the press.
He did not specifically confirm whether officers had encountered demonstrators falsely identifying themselves as journalists.
Smith also said he did not have an update on the investigation into a Saturday night incident during which an armed man exited his vehicle, engaged in a verbal spat with a protester and fired a gun into the asphalt. Someone in the vehicle yelled a racial slur as it pulled away.
After graduating from college and traveling the world, Zachary Hocker returned home to California to help care for his ailing father. He grew up in the house, but there were things about it he never really paid attention to: such as the old fuzzy, black-and-white photograph in a gold frame on a wall in the family room.
The picture, among many others on the wall, had never caught his eye until one day a few years ago. Upon closer inspection, Hocker recognized the house in the background as his grandparents’ home in Henrico County. But he had no clue about the man, a lanky white man with straight, light-colored hair in a suit. Why, Hocker wondered, was this man standing in front of the home of his grandparents, who were Black? And why was his picture hanging on their wall?
Hocker asked his father about the man. The short answer: It was John Thomas “Tom” Lewis, who lived most of his life in Richmond and was Zachary’s great-great-uncle.
“He’s usually a very stoic man,” Hocker said of his father, Andrew James Hocker Jr., who grew up in Henrico, “but when we finished talking about Uncle Tom he was crying because he meant so much to him and his family.”
That conversation launched Hocker on a quest to find out more about Lewis, leading him to discover a man, born in 1890 and dead long before Hocker was born, with a little-known story that “challenges the idea of what race is.”
Hocker, 37, sent an email recently, telling me about his family and, in particular, his great-great-uncle. Lewis was born in Buckingham County, his mother having been raped by a white man, according to family history. Despite a lifetime of ambiguous racial identity that led to ill treatment and unhappiness, he managed to serve his country in World War I, carve out a successful career as a brick mason and leave a lasting impression on those who knew him best. Hocker thought Lewis’ story might resonate at a time when race and racism are at the forefront of America’s consciousness.
“I think his story deserves to be told to a wider audience,” said Hocker, who has written a manuscript about his family he hopes to have published.
Hocker, a graduate of Yale University, grew up in California’s Silicon Valley. An anthropology major, he traveled widely during and after college — Italy, Cuba, China, India, New Zealand, among other places — learning languages and customs and coming to this conclusion: “I just realized we’re all people.”
Back at home a few years ago, having returned to help his father, he found the photo of Lewis, removed it from the wall and on the back found a few notes about Lewis written by his father’s older sister, Annette Hocker Bradley, who was considered the family historian. Hocker turned to her in the final stages of her life — she had been diagnosed with cancer — for details about Tom Lewis.
In 2017, he recorded long-distance, cross-country phone interviews with Bradley, who lived in New Jersey. She also passed along a notebook filled with family details. She died in 2018 at age 83.
“Annette gave my life purpose,” said Hocker, who shared the interviews with me. I also spoke with another aunt and uncle who still live in Richmond and who had memories of Lewis.
“I was lost, and I possessed no clearly defined goals. It was as if I had writer’s block in deciding what to write for the next chapter in the story of my life. Since she spent the last year of her life telling me about Uncle Tom and our family’s history, I believed that it was my obligation to keep this story that she kept alive until she passed away and passed it on to me.”
And there was something larger in what Bradley did, Hocker said.
“Slaves were punished for reading and writing, therefore many of our stories and history were passed on through oral tradition, and that is what my Aunt Annette did for me,” he said. “Without Annette, the lives of our ancestors would have been forgotten like many African American stories and histories have been.”
Lewis could — and did — pass as a white man with blond hair and blue eyes, but he was listed as Black in military and census records and lived his life as a Black man. His physical appearance was the result of not only his parentage but also his mother’s, Bradley told Hocker. Lewis’ mother, Ida, was the daughter of an enslaved woman in the years leading up to the Civil War who became pregnant after being raped by the white landowner, an appallingly routine occurrence in the era of slavery.
Bradley told Hocker that Ida, as a young teen, was sold by the jealous wife of the landowner and wound up as a caretaker for a widowed American Indian in Buckingham County. After the Civil War, she married the man, Charles Lewis, and had several children with him, though Tom Lewis was the result of a rape.
Ida Lewis was Zachary Hocker’s great-great-grandmother.
Because of his fair complexion and his origins, Tom Lewis grew up feeling like an outcast, in some instances within his own family, Bradley said.
“He had a very unhappy life in a sense,” Bradley said when she talked to her nephew. “Because he didn’t fit in either world. He was raised in a Black world, but he had the white look.”
Lewis didn’t attend school beyond the seventh grade, according to census records. At some point he came to Richmond, and in 1911, according to public marriage records, married a Black woman, Bessie Davis.
He was among the 200,000 Black Americans who served in World War I and were shipped overseas. For those Blacks who hoped their military service would ease segregation back home, they must have been bitterly disappointed upon their return by the lack of societal change.
Straddling the racial divide, Lewis endured continuing indignities as he went along.
His great-nieces recalled stories of Lewis riding in the back of streetcars with his dark-skinned wife and other Blacks — and being chastised by authorities and ordered to move to the front of the streetcar with the other white passengers. He would explain “This is my wife,” his family said, to no avail. The experience motivated him to purchase a car.
Once on a construction site, Bessie brought Tom his lunch. White co-workers joked to Tom — thinking he was white like them — about his “slave” or “maid” (depending on the telling) bringing him a meal.
“Uncle Tom just put his trowel in his bag and walked away instead of taking that type of insult,” his great-niece Marlene Hocker Brewer told me.
Finding another job didn’t seem to be a problem for Lewis — his family said he was a sought-after brick mason whose white appearance might have opened doors for him that were closed to other Blacks. He earned enough income to own several properties, including the lot he provided to his niece Alma, and her husband, Andrew Hocker, for them to build their home. As a young woman, Alma had lived with the Lewises.
Bradley and Brewer’s youngest sibling, Cliff Hocker, 71, a writer, still lives next door to the family home in Richmond’s North Side, near Richmond Raceway. (Lewis lived in nearby Providence Park.) As the youngest, Cliff didn’t know Lewis as well as his older siblings, but he recalled that he “did seem to have a composure about him and a wit. He didn’t seem to be a bitter person” despite the challenges he faced.
Bradley and Brewer recall as young children being infatuated with Lewis’ straight, blond hair and how, whenever he visited, they would fetch a comb and ask if they could comb his hair. Typically a quiet person, Lewis might offer slight resistance, Brewer said, but would often relent good-naturedly.
“He was very playful with us children … the type of man that would let little 5- and 6-year-old children just rumble through his hair,” Brewer said with a laugh. Tom and Bessie had no children.
The last decades of Lewis’ life were filled with more sadness and health problems. Bessie, described by her great-nieces as a “saintly woman” who would make the children elaborate Easter baskets when they were young, died in 1943. Lewis never remarried and made a point of keeping everything in his house just as Bessie had arranged it.
Lewis was in and out of what is now McGuire Veterans Affairs Medical Center for respiratory issues (he suffered from tuberculosis, his great-nieces said, and also might have been gassed during World War I) and later had his legs amputated. His great-nieces recall visiting him in the hospital, first in the white ward of the segregated hospital.
After a visit by one of his great-nieces who showered him with affection, including hugs, white patients in the room made disparaging comments about her. Lewis explained she was his niece.
“I guess they must have told the nurses, ‘He’s not one of us,’ because they moved him to the Black ward after that,” Bradley recalled, noting patients in the Black ward thought Lewis’ arrival meant their ward was being integrated before learning the real story.
Lewis died in 1968 and is buried at Glendale National Cemetery on Willis Church Road in eastern Henrico.
Zachary Hocker said the man in the picture, the great-great-uncle he is only learning about now, played the hand life and society dealt, found love amid the hardship and stayed true to himself — a man, Hocker said, “born from a tragic occurrence [who] brought so much love and happiness to my family in the end.”
“More than ever, it seems like people are divided by race,” Hocker said. “Annette and I felt that the story we wrote about Uncle Tom would demonstrate how someone’s race and appearance really mean nothing at all. All that matters is the content and goodness within your soul.”
In Nation & World | ‘Conscience of Congress’ John Lewis mourned at U.S. Capitol | Page A10
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Brian Moore never completely closed Chez Max, his French restaurant on Patterson Avenue in western Henrico County, and he gave all of his employees the opportunity to stay on payroll during a pandemic that has crippled his industry.
Now Moore finds himself caught between two federal emergency programs that have given relief to unemployed workers, stricken businesses, and the economy they help to sustain.
He said he offered jobs to five employees who had chosen to be laid off and become eligible for enhanced unemployment benefits under the federal CARES Act — $600 a week on top of the state unemployment insurance they collect, or a maximum of $378 a week.
But when they all refused the offer, Moore reported their decisions to the Virginia Employment Commission under the terms of an $86,000 loan he received under the same federal law in order to be eligible for the loan to be converted to a grant he doesn’t have to repay.
“I didn’t want to do it,” he said, “but if I want to make sure the business survives this pandemic and the loan the government provided turns into a grant, it puts me in this position.”
Congress is preparing to negotiate the continuation of an enhanced unemployment benefit considered critical to the economy. The enhanced benefit otherwise will expire with the past work week unless lawmakers strike a deal to balance the need for emergency relief with the urgent demand for workers to return to restaurants and other businesses struggling to reopen and regain their footing.
Senate Republicans were preparing Monday to put on the table a new $1 trillion relief package that would continue the enhanced unemployment benefit — but at $200 a week, or one-third of the current payment. It also would fund a new round of forgivable loans for small businesses under the Payroll Protection Program.
Virginia’s restaurant and hospitality industry contends that a reduced benefit will help businesses bring back the workers they need as the economy slowly reopens from a public health threat that hasn’t gone away.
“We support a reduced number moving forward as the best thing to do,” said Eric Terry, president of the Virginia Restaurant, Lodging and Travel Association. “At $600, that really creates a problem.”
‘It’s definitely causing us some shortages of employees,” Terry said.
But lowering the benefit also would affect more than 357,000 Virginians who continued to file for unemployment benefits last week, even as the number of initial jobless claims rose for the first time since May.
That includes more than 79,000 people employed in the “accommodation and food services” businesses, according to the employment commission.
The Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program, created under the CARES Act adopted in late March, also supports consumer spending that has helped prop up the economy in the face of business shutdowns to contain the spread of COVID-19.
‘There’s no doubt that if consumers stop spending, it’s going to cause a bigger hit on the economy,” Virginia Secretary of Finance Aubrey Layne said Monday.
Gov. Ralph Northam supports the continuation of the unemployment compensation program, but he hasn’t taken a position on how high the supplemental payment should be.
“The governor has no position on what the amount should be,” said Megan Healy, the governor’s chief workforce development adviser. “He knows that many families need extra support.”
Congressional Democrats generally support extending the current $600 weekly benefit at least through the end of the year.
“Tens of millions of Americans are facing potential evictions and foreclosures after eviction protections have expired, expanded unemployment benefits are expiring this week, state and local governments are in budget crises, and the health crisis continues unabated,” Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., said Monday. “Yet among the Republicans’ top priorities in this bill is protecting businesses from lawsuits, as if lawsuits were the biggest threat right now.”
“I’m advocating very strongly in conversations with Democratic and Republican colleagues that the core of this bill should be helping Americans deal with the hardships they’re facing, he said.
Rep. Don Beyer, D-8th, introduced legislation on Monday with Rep. Derek Kilmer, a Democrat from Washington state. The Worker Relief and Security Act would extend the current enhanced unemployment benefit through the end of the public health emergency, then reduce it to $450 a week and tie it to automatic stabilizers, including a state’s unemployment rate.
“You’re turning a federal unemployment insurance benefit on and off as it’s needed,” Beyer said.
Virginia officials want whatever Congress passes to be easy for the beleaguered state employment commission to carry out.
“Make a decision and make it simple so we can implement it,” said Healy, Northam’s workforce development adviser.
‘A real issue’
Senate Minority Leader Tommy Norment, R-James City, said the size of the unemployment benefit is “a real issue” for the Historic Triangle around Williamsburg, which he said “economically thrives or dies on the hospitality industry.”
“There are two major concerns: I can draw unemployment plus $600, which is more than when I work; and I am concerned about contracting the virus,” Norment said in a text message on Monday.
For Brian Moore, the right solution would be to restructure the unemployment benefit to help people replace a portion of their income, but not more than they’re already making.
“Unemployment was always structured so you would make less money than when you were working,” Moore said. “It should be weighted according to what you were making.”
When the coronavirus crisis began, he offered his 14 employees the option to stay on salary as the restaurant was forced to rely on carryout and delivery, which represented about 20% of its revenues.
Nine stayed, although two of them left later for different reasons that Moore said he believes were about “all the money they make on unemployment versus what we’re paying them.”
As the restaurant returned to indoor dining and reduced hours, he offered to rehire the five he said had chosen to be laid off. They refused and he reported to VEC that they had declined the offer, as he is required to do under his PPP loan for it to be converted to a grant.
He’s in the 12th week of an eight-week loan, so the money already is gone, spent almost entirely on payroll.
Moore said he also worries about the people who chose not to return to work.
“A job provides people more than just a paycheck,” he said.
COVID-19 on the rise in Virginia
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The executive committee of the Virginia High School League made official Monday what had been suspected for weeks — that there will be no public high school sports this fall. The committee voted 34-1 to play all sports between December and June, canceling the fall football season and altering the schedules of every sport.
Coronavirus cases have been increasing in Virginia, with the state now seeing 1,000 new instances of the illness a day on a regular basis. VHSL Executive Director Billy Haun cautioned that high-risk sports such as football and basketball likely can’t be played until Gov. Ralph Northam’s restrictions for Phase Three of reopening are loosened.
The current plan is contingent on the hope that more athletic activity is allowed this winter.
“As long as we’re in Phase Three and we have the guidelines we have, we’re not going to be able to play the high-risk sports as they are,” Haun said. “Virginia will have to move out of Phase Three, or Phase Three guidelines will have to be revised to allow sports to begin.”
The plan calls for winter sports (basketball, gymnastics, indoor track, swimming and diving, and wrestling) to begin Dec. 14, with the first competitions on Dec. 28. The season would wrap up Feb. 20. Fall sports (football, cheerleading, cross country, field hockey, golf and volleyball) would commence Feb. 15, play their first contest March 1 and cease May 1. Spring sports (baseball, softball, lacrosse, soccer, tennis, and track and field) would start April 12, play their first contest April 26 and finalize their season on June 26.
Dates could change, and whether a postseason will be conducted is still to be determined. It seems clear there won’t be state championships as usual, but the league has discussed hosting a bowl game format in which each team plays a one-game postseason. Each modified season would last about 60% the length of a full season.
One big concern for Goochland High School athletics director Joe Fowler is that multisport athletes might be inclined to specialize in one sport, a growing concern in youth athletics the past decade, because of how the seasons are jammed together. The seasons will overlap, but Fowler said he will encourage students to play multiple sports anyway.
Under the governor’s restrictions, lower-risk and moderate-risk sports, such as golf, cross country and baseball, are currently allowed, and there was discussion among the VHSL executive committee of green-lighting golf and cross country. But doing so would create a number of logistical, equity and financial problems, the committee determined.
For one, many school systems, such as those in Henrico County, Chesterfield County and Richmond, plan to begin the fall semester with remote learning. Conducting online class and in-person practice would present an array of questions, said committee Chairwoman Shannon Butler. Additionally, altering the schedule of one sport and not another could result in a lawsuit against the league, said legal counsel Craig Wood.
Paying for low-risk sports would be a challenge, too. It cost the VHSL $52,000 to operate cross country last year, Haun said. (The league compensates schools for traveling to state events.) The league made back $35,000 in championship meet ticket sales. But because Phase Three restrictions limit all event capacity to 250 people, the league probably wouldn’t be able to sell tickets, resulting it a significant loss of revenue.
Ticket sales from football games pay for a significant number of athletic department expenses, such as referees, new jerseys and reconditioning of football helmets. If large crowds aren’t allowed at games, schools will need to think creatively to raise money, and costs that can be delayed will be, Fowler said.
The loss of state tournament events will affect the VHSL office, too. Between 35% and 40% of the league’s yearly revenue comes from state tournament ticket sales. The league already canceled 10 of 12 basketball state championship games in March and all its spring championships in June.
The league cut costs by shifting meetings online and allowing staffers to travel less. The office secured a federal Paycheck Protection Program loan that helped the league survive through the end of the 2020 fiscal year, Haun said, but furloughs or paycheck reductions might be enacted if needed.
The VHSL’s executive committee also considered two other proposals that it did not approve. In the first, the fall season would begin as normal, but only cross country and golf would be allowed. In the second, the spring and fall seasons would be flip-flopped, allowing baseball, softball, tennis, and track and field to begin in August. Members of the executive committee liked its third model the most, because it allows for every sport to be played.
Phase Three restrictions for sports set by the Virginia Department of Health are up for interpretation. The rule states that participants in any sport should maintain 10 feet of physical distance where practicable. If close contact is minor and limited in duration, the sport may take place.
The VHSL has interpreted that rule to mean that only low-risk and moderate-risk sports will be conducted during Phase Three. The VHSL uses the NCAA’s classifications. High-risk sports are football, basketball, field hockey, lacrosse, soccer, volleyball and wrestling. Medium-risk sports are baseball, cross country, gymnastics and softball. Low-risk sports are diving, golf, swimming, tennis, and track and field.
Pay-to-play club sports, on the other hand, have interpreted the rules far differently. Basketball, soccer and field hockey leagues have resumed in the last month around the Richmond area.
The Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association, which loosely governs private schools, said last week that it will not sponsor championships this fall. That doesn’t stop private schools from playing their own seasons without statewide championships. Life Christian Academy, for example, said it will play its football season.
State associations across the country are divided about whether they should reinstate high school sports. West Virginia and Maryland plan to host athletic competition this fall. North Carolina hasn’t decided.