MIAA Executive Director Robert Baldwin responds to optional masking recommendation

Staff Writer
Published: 1/13/2022 5:41:00 PM
Modified: 1/13/2022 5:40:07 PM

It took just one day for MIAA Executive Director Robert Baldwin to respond to questions surrounding masking in high school basketball student-athletes.

Baldwin, who is in his first school year in that role, responded Thursday to a recommendation that came one day earlier from the MIAA Basketball Committee.

“I have learned throughout my career that the only thing worse than a lack of information is a mixed message,” Baldwin began in a release sent to MIAA membership and the media on Thursday.

That message from the organization’s Basketball Committee was a recommendation to the MIAA Board of Directors that would make it optional for basketball players and officials to wear masks during play this winter. Currently, players, coaches and officials are required statewide to wear masks, but the committee voted by a 15-3 margin to recommend that players and officials have the option. The committee had previously supported that measure at a meeting earlier this winter.

“This recommendation is well within their purview, and in this case, serves as a recommendation only to the Board of Directors,” Baldwin wrote in his release.

While the Basketball Committee voted in favor of players and officials having the option to wear masks, it does not appear that will be the case going forward. Baldwin said that he had a meeting with a doctor who said that “the current surge is 20 fold higher than the first surge when COVID 19 began.”

“This is not the time to be sending a mixed message regarding masking guidelines to our membership,” he continued. “DESE recently extended its mask requirement for all K-12 public schools in Massachusetts through February 28, 2022, based upon the current Omicron surge. It is the intent of the MIAA to stay the course as well.”

Baldwin reiterated that the behaviors that occur in co-curricular activities, such as sports, should be consistent with protocols that take place within the school day. 

“That is why the MIAA has been in lockstep with DESE’s masking recommendations,” he said.

If Thursday’s release was written in hopes of clearing up mixed messages, Baldwin made the position of the MIAA quite clear.

“Uniform compliance collectively adhered to by local authorities for ALL student-athletes throughout the Commonwealth eliminates mixed messages and continues to be the expectation during this heightened cycle of COVID-19,” he said, noting that proper mask-wearing and covering the nose and mouth fully, “is the expectation needed for the safety of our students and school communities.”

Local high school basketball programs have worn masks since the late winter of 2021, when Fall II sports were approved. That policy has continued this winter across the Commonwealth. Individual school districts have adopted their own rules and policies for fan attendance.

“I respect and honor the difficulty of local control,” Baldwin concluded. “However, I felt the need to send a clear and consistent message to our member schools that we will continue to stay the course as we continue to navigate the current winter season.”

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