New York cheerleaders urge venue change for state championship over COVID-19 vaccine requirement
Cheerleaders from multiple Long Island high schools gathered on Tuesday to voice their support for changing the site of next month’s state championships due to a COVID-19 vaccination requirement at the current venue, the Rochester Institute of Technology.
“We just want to be able to be inclusive. We’ve been working together for so long and we just wanted to be able to finish the season strong,” Alyssa-Kate DiGiantamasso, one of the cheerleaders, said at a press conference Tuesday. .
“So when half of our team is vaccinated, and half of them aren’t, we just decided that instead of arguing with each other, we’re going to respect each other’s decisions.”
Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman joined the cheerleaders Tuesday and offered to host the cheerleading state championships at the Mitchel Field Athletic Center in Uniondale, New York, without a vaccination mandate.
“We think [the vaccine requirement] is unfair because a lot of these kids have been competing all along without such a mandate, and now they get to the pinnacle of all of their hard work, where they have a chance to compete at the state level on a state championship, and that’s being denied when it’s an arbitrary rule that basically is not being applied across the board, “Blakeman said Tuesday.
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“This is not about being against vaccinations. I’m a pro-vaccination person here in Nassau County,” Blakeman continued. “But we have to respect everybody’s rights, we have to respect individual rights, we have to respect the fact that people should make these decisions along with their physician.”
A Change.org petition was started in mid-December urging the New York State Public High School Athletic Association (NYSPHSAA) to change the venue so that everyone who qualifies can compete regardless of vaccination status. It has since garnered nearly 17,000 signatures.
Cheerleaders from Wantagh, Seaford, West Babylon, Sachem East, and Sachem North high schools voiced their support for the venue change on Tuesday.
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Grace Calabria, another cheerleader, said Tuesday that cheerleading is the only high school sport with a state championship venue that has a vaccine requirement.
“I just want everybody to be treated equally. Other sports didn’t have to go through this,” Calabria said Tuesday. “It just seems like it’s being pointed directly at the cheerleaders, when other sports had their venues moved or had a test option, and we didn’t get that opportunity or chance.”
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The NYSPHSAA says the Rochester Institute of Technology requires all “athletes, coaches, officials, staff, and spectators age 5 and older” to show proof of full vaccination at the state championship on March 5. Masks are also required regardless of vaccination status.
The Rochester Institute of Technology and NYSPHSAA did not respond to requests for comment on Tuesday.
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