Aging football equipment is a factor of life in a number of school districts across the nation. That’s a problem that needs to be solved to minimize the risk of significant injury, no matter how out of date equipment may be. Still, some out of date equipment is more egregious than others, and nothing can come close to what is reportedly playing out in Chicago.
As reported by DNAInfo, Chicago Public Schools (CPS) football equipment is woefully out of date and unsafe. The most glaring example came from Sullivan High in the city’s Rogers Park neighborhood, where shoulder pads are reportedly 15-20 years out of date, as discussed by Sullivan head coach Calvin Clark.
“In a typical world that happens, but CPS not having any money is what they say,” Clark told DNAInfo. “Out of all sports, football costs the most money. We were on a freeze. The school is doing the best they can.”
That “best they can,” includes staying in line with bi-annual recertification of football helmets, a process that can help with fit but does little to guarantee improved safety. After all, it’s just the helmet manufacturers re-stamping a helmet as safe.
Illinois High School Association standards hold that helmets which are 10 years old are no longer safe for use. It’s not known how many helmets that old are currently in use in Chicago. There are no such limitations on shoulder pads, paving the way to the out of date issues facing the pads across CPS.
That in itself could be a legal issue for the school district, according to Philadelphia lawyer and former Las Vegas Sun sports reporter Steve Silver, writing for Gawker Media’s legal blog Redline.
“… if the allegations in Moore’s piece are true, then there are numerous teams in Chicago forced to compete with unsafe equipment due to budget constraints that the IHSA and CPS are now fully aware of.
“And it is this awareness that could land both organizations back in court. If the IHSA and CPS do not ensure that its athlete have safe and modern equipment then those organizations, the schools, and potentially the coaches, face civil liability for not acting to prioritize athletes’ safety.”
In the meantime, the individual schools have begun turning to crowdfunding efforts such as GoFundMe to raise desperately needed funds to keep their student athletes safe.
CPS officials “just don’t put any money into these programs,” former King College Prep football coach Lonnie Williams told DNAInfo. “There’s no positive way to look at this. It’s sad but it’s true.”