EDITORIAL: PIAA fall sports statement is latest misstep for Gov. Wolf during pandemic

  • Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf recently issued a statement on fall sports in Pennsylvania.
  • Wolf is recommending that sports not be played in the state until 2021.
  • The PIAA responded by postponing fall sports practices for two weeks.
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf

Consistency, transparency and accountability are all we are asking for.

Unfortunately, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf has failed us on all three fronts recently in his management of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The latest example came late last week when Wolf, without warning, announced at the end of a news conference that he didn’t believe fall scholastic sports should take place in the state in 2020. Then he walked away from the microphone without answering follow-up questions.

Immediately, folks were left confused, wondering whether Wolf was issuing an order or simply offering guidance. Only later in the day did the administration clarify that it was only making a strong recommendation.

Still it was a decision that obviously blindsided the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association, which is the governing body of high school sports in the state. Just a week before, the PIAA had given its approval for fall sports to start on time, provided health and safety protocols were followed.

York County lawmakers sound off on Wolf's sports recommendation

That is not the first time that’s happened. Wolf has repeatedly made statements in news conferences that only added to the confusion about what is allowed during the pandemic, rather than offering real illumination. It doesn’t help that Wolf often seems to dodge follow-up questions that might clear up the situation.

Little to no enforcement: Additionally, Wolf’s mandates often come with little or no enforcement, mitigating their effectiveness. His order that everyone must wear a mask outside their homes is just such an example. That order has not been enforced by anyone in authority, leaving businesses with the thankless task of enforcing the mandate.

Another mandate that is ignored multiple times every weekend in central Pennsylvania is the order that no more than 250 folks congregate in any one outdoor venue. Anyone who has visited a local dirt track knows that order is routinely violated. At first, there was some noise about enforcing the order and sanctioning the tracks, but Wolf and the other folks in power have apparently decided to give up on doing anything about the popular racing programs.

>>Like what you're reading?:Not a subscriber? Click here for full access to The York Dispatch.

Then, of course, there was Wolf’s repeated threat to veto a bill that ensures access to public records during declared emergencies. Eventually, Wolf backed down and allowed that bill become law without his signature. That legislation had deservedly gained unanimous approval in the General Assembly and Wolf himself said would support the bill if he was a member of the legislature.

So, Wolf’s fall sports declaration is just the latest in a series of missteps.

It’s obvious that Wolf doesn’t want to be the bad guy here and take away high school sports from teenagers, even though it’s also obvious that Wolf believes that sports should not be held until 2021 at the earliest.

PIAA delays start of fall sports season, seeks negotiations with Wolf

Wolf likely hoped that his recommendation would convince the PIAA to pull the plug on fall sports, getting him off the hook from making the final decision. The association, however, responded by only postponing fall sports practice for a couple of weeks, while also asking to negotiate with Wolf about the situation. That’s not surprising, considering the PIAA’s mandate is to govern and promote high school sports, not deny high school kids the opportunity to play.

That puts the ball firmly back in Wolf’s court. What will he do?

If history is any indication, after some confusion, he’ll make a definitive decision, but he’ll avoid any tough questioning about the decision, and then any order he gives will likely not be strongly enforced.