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Gov. Wolf’s weak ‘recommendation’ looks to force PIAA to do his bidding

Since March, Gov. Tom Wolf has often overreached what we believe the Pennsylvania Constitution states he has the authority to do.

Whether it’s shutting down the economy for months on end without input from anyone else or picking which businesses got waivers to remain open without input from anyone else or a host of other similarly important decisions he’s announced without input from anyone else (notice a pattern?) — and often little to no advance notice despite their drastic impact — the governor seems unable to understand why Pennsylvanians aren’t waiting with bated breath for his next proclamation or universally singing his praises for “saving” the commonwealth from the virus.

His latest line, stated in passing Thursday, regarding his “strong recommendation” that youth sports shouldn’t be played until Jan. 1 — just before walking away from reporters’ understandable follow-up queries — is the latest feckless act in a long line of them by this governor that has caused justifiable outrage.

Putting aside the curious wisdom of such a choice, especially because Wolf has seemingly had no problem watching youth baseball, softball and several other sports proceed over the past few weeks without widespread upticks in virus cases, the governor arrived at the decision a day late (remember, he told us earlier in the week we’d hear from him Wednesday) and seemingly a dollar short given some schools were ready to begin formalized workouts next week and whose players have been informally meeting to prepare for a season they felt increasingly confident they would have until a couple days ago.

It’s easy for Wolf’s critics to say he doesn’t care what others think. We actually argue the opposite in this case.

Wolf knows if he’s the one to declare unequivocally there are no youth sports for the rest of this calendar year, people will rightly direct their anger toward him.

But, if Wolf could put out his “recommendation” to shut down sports without mandating it, he probably thought, for fear of going against the governor’s wishes, he could leverage the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association or the individual schools themselves to make the ultimate decision, rendering him — at least in his eyes — free of blame. And make no mistake, there would be a tidal wave of fury headed his way. The PIAA said Friday it had received approximately 7.500 emails since the governor made his statement and so many phone calls, it overloaded the organization’s phones.

The PIAA hasn’t yet capitulated to Wolf, but hasn’t said it will defy him either, delaying action for two weeks at its emergency meeting Friday. The PIAA has said it desires to work with the governor’s office and the state legislature to find a solution that provides a safe way for interscholastic sports to take place this fall.

While we are hopeful such a conclusion can be reached; remembering how Wolf has behaved as judge, jury and executioner throughout the pandemic, we are admittedly not optimistic that will happen. For fall sports to be saved, it may take the PIAA standing against Wolf’s wishes, something it has yet to do during the pandemic.

If Wolf believes barring youth sports is what’s necessary to keep people safe, fine. We may disagree strongly, but if the governor would have stood there, answered questions and been accountable, that’s at least honorable and at least gives the impression Wolf has some respect and compassion for those who are most negatively impacted by his latest statement.

Instead, the way Wolf went about this was as weak as it gets for someone who fancies himself a great leader.

However it happens, for the sake of the athletes, coaches, parents and the community at large, we are cheering hard for there to be fall sports. Having to miss out on yet another scholastic season would be yet another heartbreaking defeat.

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