WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — High school football is finally back. But new safety procedures and protocols extend beyond the players and coaches. Football referees are also feeling that impact.
"Probably what's not being done right is that the games aren't being played at all," referee Bruce Hawthorne said.
Hawthorne has 25 years of experience in refereeing high school football. He said if you can't isolate the high school athletes the way some pro leagues like the NBA have done then they shouldn't play.
"And so that leaves people like me, coaches, players, and whoever else is associated at risk," he said.
The East Coast Football Officials Association handles referees in Palm Beach County. Some of the guidelines this fall include officials may wear gloves including medical latex gloves, officials may wear plastic face shields, and officials shall not engage in pregame/post games handshakes of any kind to name a few.
"I think that the intent was good, but I don't feel that it should have been something is issued as a maybe or if you want to, but I think it should have been mandated," he said.
The Palm Beach County School District football season hasn't been announced yet. But they have guidelines in place for referees, coaches, and players. Protocols include officials will symptom check and certify prior to working games, positive cases will be turned over to district leadership.
Hawthorne is not sure how many of his colleagues may opt out this fall, but he does want more done.
"The balls need to be sanitized from time to time, I think that anyone that is not involved immediately in the game should wear a mask," he said.
Referees this year will not be responsible for footballs during the game and will not be responsible for the monitoring of sidelines for social distancing. Those responsibilities will be handled by the schools and teams.