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Governor, can you hear us now?

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In this file photo, New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham speaks during a news conference in Santa Fe. (AP Photo)

Many attend peaceful protest in Santa Fe

When the Green Bay Packers were on their way to their Super Bowl victory in 2011, the Packers were trying to get President Barack Obama to come to their game against his beloved Chicago Bears in the NFC Championship game at Soldier Field in Chicago.

Obama made the statement that he would only go to the Super Bowl if the Bears were playing in it. Obama didn’t attend the game and Green Bay went on to beat the Bears, 21-14. After the game, Packers’ defensive back Charles Woodson said, “If the president won’t come see us, then we’ll go see the president.”

Woodson was talking about the Packers winning the Super Bowl and then being invited to the White House. Green Bay beat the Pittsburgh Steelers, 31-25 that year.

Protest in Santa Fe, Oct. 24

Goddard’s Sophia Price hits a shot into the Roswell defense during last season’s rivalry game at the Coyote Den. (File Photo)

On Saturday, Oct. 24, many people from Roswell who felt like Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham was not hearing their voices when they had a peaceful protest on Oct. 11 at the Wool Bowl, went to Santa Fe to let the governor hear their voices in another peaceful protest. Roswell football coach Jeff Lynn talked to over 2,000 people as an educator and coach.

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Lynn talked about how his mother, Vicky Lynn used to say, “Idle hands are the devil’s playgrounds.”

He talked about gun violence being up in New Mexico. He mentioned suicide rates being up and that kids are failing in the classrooms in New Mexico. Since the Roswell football team has started working out again, grades have come up and attitudes are better. He can see a difference in his players since Labor Day.

RHS has 115 kids in the program and 30 new kids without a D or an F. When they pulled grades on Oct. 16, they had 64 kids without a D or an F. Lynn feels like grades are coming up, attitudes are better and the energy is better with his players.

“We have seen a marked improvement in just being able to get our kids an hour a day,” Lynn said. “Being around their friends and having social interaction and getting some exercise has helped. I think there is a lot of collateral damage. There is another side to all of this COVID pandemic. I get that we are sensitive to the virus and we need to protect those people that are at risk, but at some point, we have to see all the other stuff going on and take that into consideration.”

The fears that parents, student-athletes and coaches have are this: half of the school year is over, and it will turn into next year, with no sports or school. For the class of 2021, this is the end of the line for them. There are no do-overs.

Governor’s conference, Oct. 8

Lujan Grisham in her livestreamed press conference Oct. 8, told all concerned about practices beginning Oct. 5, and games on Oct. 10, that she never changed the public health order. In fact, she said New Mexico never was out of Phase 1 since she locked down the state. Teams had been able to practice in 9:1 pods prior to the Oct. 8 press conference, but had to switch to 4:1 pods effective Oct. 9.

“I do want to take us back to protect against the spread of COVID-19,” Lujan Grisham said. “The state is not updating its public health order. In fact, we didn’t update the health order to ever permit the use of K-12 games or competition this fall. We were very clear about that. We didn’t amend the order to do that, and that includes club sports. Our priorities are to get our kiddos back into the classroom.”

Protest in Roswell, Oct. 12

After that news conference, that following Monday there was a peaceful protest in Roswell on Oct. 12, and in southeastern New Mexico with parents, athletes and coaches, including RHS coaches Jeff Lynn and Heather Baca along with NMMI’s Sean Schooley all lending their support, as well as Artesia’s athletic director, Cooper Henderson.

Roswell’s Alyssa Williams (6) hits the ball during a game against Portales last year at the Coyote Den. (File Photo)

Not only did they show up, but other communities showed up: Elida, Hagerman, Artesia and Dexter. The communities showed up as one to serve as role models to the kids of this area. The theme of the night was that kids are hurting. These communities feel that schools need to open up and athletics need to be played.

“Here at the Wool Bowl where our student-athletes participate in all sorts of sports,” state Rep. Phelps Anderson said, “the sadness is that it is empty, our schools are empty and that must change.”

Lujan Grisham on Oct. 8 made the announcement that volleyball, cross country and golf were canceled because it was too dangerous to lift the ban of the health order. Lujan Grisham did not want to risk the chance of spreading the COVID-19 virus further.

Many political dignitaries, including Anderson, state Reps. Greg Nibert and Candy Spence Ezzell, state Sen. Cliff Pirtle and Roswell Mayor Dennis Kintigh spoke at the Wool Bowl about opening schools in New Mexico.

“We have to get our kids back to school,” Nibert said. “We need to get them back to school and this is just the second dagger in keeping them from participating in extracurricular activities at a time when we need them to be optimistic and look forward to things. We just took something they were looking forward to off the plate. We are one of three states along with California and Illinois not allowing their students to participate in sports.”

Nibert believes we need to do everything to show the kids that we support them. He believes that we need to let them realize their dreams. Nibert feels like schools have not been a source of spreading COVID. He also thinks that we are not fulfilling our constitutional mandate of educating children if we don’t open up and let kids get their education.

Nibert believes we should have things in place so that kids are safe on the school grounds. He also said they should do a good job with cleaning and should have protocols in place that if someone does get the virus, they take care of that and isolate them.

Sheriff Mike Herrington has 11 grandchildren and believes that playing sports gives them discipline and confidence. He has watched his grandkids struggle every day and he feels they are being left behind and society is failing them. Herrington has seen a rise in domestic violence, child abuse and sexual cases.

“The kids don’t have no one to go and tell,” Herrington said. “The teachers were their defense. It’s so important to me to continue this fight and whatever I have to do, I will, along with the rest of the representatives, congressmen, senators, and our commissioners’ fight. I will fight this with them.”

Roswell volleyball coach Heather Baca sees the struggles with her own kids. As a teacher, Baca is concerned about providing a quality education for all students. She’s concerned about kids not getting to go to school and socialize.

“As a teacher I teach a black screen all day,” Baca said. “There are so many little intricacies that take place that we don’t have right now. Our kids are struggling, you look at the grade data and they are struggling with online learning. I feel like students that are lower economically are being hurt the most because they don’t have the bandwidth to even Zoom sometimes.”

One of the things that parents and student-athletes feel bad about is they can only practice so long. They want to know when they will be able to play games. They feel they are slowly watching their senior year go away.

This week in football, Roswell would be playing Alamogordo. Teams have already missed homecoming, and it might not be until January that sports are played again. They feel it could be worse if the governor does not lift the public health order or move New Mexicans into Phase II.

“Other people say ‘there is always next year,’” Lynn said. “Yeah, but not for seniors. There’s no next year for them.”

Sports editor J.T. Keith can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 304, or sports@rdrnews.com.