Zach Ertz doesn’t have a vote on whether Pennsylvania high schools will cancel fall sports because of the COVID-19 pandemic. But he strongly urged them Friday to let the kids play.
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf recommended Thursday that high school sports in the state be canceled until 2021. On Friday, the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association, which is the governing body of high school sports in the state, announced a two-week delay to the start of fall sports.
Ertz, the Eagles’ three-time Pro Bowl tight end, understands the risks of playing sports, especially football, right now. But he also knows the risks of not playing for many teenagers.
“I want kids to be healthy, first and foremost,” he said. “That’s the primary goal. But I remember being 15 years old with my parents separated. I was the oldest of four boys. I was so frustrated. The only thing that I knew how to do, the only way I could express myself, was playing football.
“All I did was lift weights, play football, play basketball. And that allowed me to release my internal stress and pressure that had built up inside of me because of what was going on.”
Ertz said the adversity he dealt with back then is “1/1,000th” of what many high school students in Philadelphia are dealing with now and will be facing this fall if they don’t have an outlet.
He said if football and the rest of the fall sports are canceled, “I would just really challenge everyone. There’s got to be an alternative where we don’t just allow these kids to go through the day with no guidance, with no further investment in them.”
Ertz said people need to “think outside the box” about finding ways to keep high school students safe if they don’t have sports to turn to.
“Obviously, football costs money,” he said. “So if they were to disband football, where does that money go? I would love to see it invested in these kids to make sure that they’re OK and taken care of, and not on the streets from 3 to 7 [p.m.].