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Buffalo schools superintendent responds to Bennett High football postponement

Superintendent Dr. Kriner Cash called the decision a 'racial injustice and equity issue,' adding that he believes Saturday's game should have been forfeited.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Buffalo Public Schools superintendent Dr. Kriner Cash criticized the decision to postpone a quarterfinal matchup between Bennett High and McQuaid Jesuit Sunday.

The two high school football teams were supposed to play at Williamsville South Saturday to secure a spot in the state semifinal game in Class AA. The game was pushed back after members of the McQuaid team tested positive for COVID-19 but then sought to play anyways via a judge's order.

The New York State Public High School Athletic Association made the sudden announcement to allow McQuaid's legal challenge to play out against the Erie County Health Department, whose guidelines would govern whether the game is played. NYPHSAA policy is to defer COVID guidance to the local health department for where a game is being played.

Dr. Cash called the decision a "racial injustice and equity issue" in his statement Sunday, adding that he believes Saturday's game should have been forfeited.

McQuaid said in a statement Saturday that a court order was issued by Erie County Supreme Court Judge Marc A. Montour that afternoon, which would have allowed the team to play regardless of the guidance given by the Erie County Department of Health that may have prevented it.

New York State Public High School Athletic Association stepped in and pushed the game back until Tuesday, November 23 which gives time for the court order to be fully considered.

Back in May, a COVID-19 outbreak put the Bennett High School football team on pause, and after appeals to play were denied, its season ended. Section VI denied Bennett the opportunity to reschedule their semifinal playoff game against Lancaster, which advanced to the championship.

This season Bennett High School defeated Lancaster in the Section VI championship game at Highmark Stadium to advance and face McQuaid.

The Erie County Health Department when asked for comment referred 2 On Your Side to two tweets made by County Executive Mark Poloncarz Saturday about the decision. Poloncarz said in one of those tweets, "McQuaid tried to force the game to be played by judicial order, in contravention of health department standards."

2 On Your Side reached out Saturday evening to the New York State Public High School Athletic Association, which confirmed the postponement.

McQuaid Jesuit issued a statement on Saturday evening, which provided some additional detail about the events.

Dr. Cash's statement read, in full: 

“We have seen a highly disturbing precedent occur with the Bennett/McQuaid football contest case. To date, it does not embody a spirit of equity, fairness, and good sportsmanship. The game clearly should have been forfeited due to the significant Covid-19 outbreak on the McQuaid team. Health and safety must always be the first priority for everyone.

"Neither BPS nor NYSPHSAA have been privy to the injunction documents allegedly filed with the Court. If this case is not heard tomorrow or Tuesday morning and properly resolved, we will call an urgent press conference and invite all relevant local and state authorities to stand with us.

"This is fast unfolding as a racial injustice and inequity issue. I will not tolerate, under any circumstance, victimizing and discounting our student athletes when they have followed all the rules pursuant to this matter. As a District, we are fully prepared to take immediate appellate action to ensure a safe, fair, and just outcome.”

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