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EXCLUSIVE: Fordham Women’s Basketball Players Speak About Their Petition to Play

Fordham Women’s Basketball is having a phenomenal season. The Rams are 11-3, and 8-2 in the Atlantic 10, which has them in second place in the Conference. With five games left on their schedule, including a head-to-head with first place Dayton, Fordham was still very much in the running to capture the Atlantic 10 title.

Until Fordham University administration stepped in. The news broke early Sunday morning, as the Rams were preparing for their Senior Day game that afternoon against La Salle.

The timing of the news was quite auspicious given Fordham Men’s Basketball got to play (and get obliterated) by Saint Louis at home the day before. Yet Sunday morning, after La Salle had already travelled to the Bronx, the University pulled the plug.

The school publicly announced the cancelation of all games through at least February 28, although as Kaitlin Downey, Junior on the Women’s Basketball describes in her Change.org petition, it seems as though Fordham University has already pulled the plug on the Atlantic 10 Tournament as well (scheduled for March 3-7 in Richmond, VA).

You can read the full statement from Downey’s petition here:

URGENT: WE’RE ASKING FOR YOUR HELP AND SUPPORT! For six straight months, Fordham’s Women’s Basketball team has defied many odds to maintain a healthy and safe bubble to be able to compete in the Atlantic10. With 1,400 negative tests, ZERO positive results, trials of isolation from family and friends during holidays, and a consistent commitment to Fordham University’s Covid-19 health policies, our program has a proven record to safely finish the remainder of our season. The one part of our lives that remained a glimmer of hope in a world that fuels too much hate and not enough love has been our family, our team. There is something bigger being fought here, it’s a chance to move forward, reach the culmination of all of our work and allow our passions to be fully expressed through our sport. There must come a time to begin living in this age with strong faith and ample caution.

We are asking Father McShane to allow us to play these final weeks of our season on the road. We have trusted our University and now we are asking you to trust us now. With our backs against the wall, we are asking for Fordham Administration to not walk away from us now. We have an incredibly strong travel plan, Doctor’s approvals, and funding plan that we have prepared to make our reality. We have agreed to sign any waiver that removes University liability from our team!

This petition is to never disregard any other academic or athletic programs on campus that have also been affected by the two-week shutdown. We simply believe the credentials we have achieved as a team for over six months affords us a special opportunity given the pressing deadline of our season. It has absolutely broken our hearts to have given everything to our University and administration for the past six months, only to see it all stripped from us for reasons we have absolutely no control over.

The players of Fordham Women’s Basketball understand the gravity of this situation and are confident that our support would be reciprocated to any other program within the Fordham Community.

Games Cancelled:

Feb 14 vs LaSalle  – SENIOR Day

Feb 18 – George Mason

Feb 20 – George Washington

Feb 26 – Dayton

Feb 28 – Saint Louis

March 2-7 – Atlantic10 Tournament

As of the time of the publication of this story, Fordham’s petition has over 3,500 signatures on it.

Look, going into a 14-day pause due to reaching a COVID threshold is one thing. No one is saying that the University doesn’t have the right to do what they deem is best for their students given the everchanging conditions of the pandemic. Just one week prior, UMass announced they would be pausing all athletic activities for 14-days as well. That said, the Athletic Department in Amherst has already begun scheduling games for after the 14-day pause is set to end on February 21.

But from the looks of things, it doesn’t appear that Fordham’s administration has any intention of resuming any athletic activities well beyond the initially announced 14-days. And that’s heartbreaking.

I reached out to Fordham junior Kaitlyn Downey, creator of the Change.org petition, and she was very gracious in her response to me:

“This week has definitely been a scary wake up call for our program. Given the time we’re living in, we try to only focus on what we can control but it’s hard to forget how the uncontrollables have vastly affected the outlook of our season. As a team, we are still trying to stay extremely optimistic and stay mentally and physically prepared for whatever may happen!

We understand Father is in an extremely difficult position and we completely want to remain respectful of the entire process.

There are so many people working hard to make this hope a reality!”

Fordham senior Edona Thaqi also responded to me, saying:

“This week has definitely been crazy and unpredictable. There are so many things that are out of our control right now and all we can do is remain positive in this situation. We understand that Father McShane is in a tough position and we are just staying hopeful throughout this process.

We know the administration is trying very hard to find a solution and we are very appreciative of that.”

I reached out to a few other Fordham players, but they informed me that they are not allowed to say much about this topic anymore.

That to me is so heartbreaking. Here are 17 strong, powerful women who have followed every single rule, regulation and guidance that their school, conference and the NCAA have given them to follow. They put themselves on the line to play and represent their institution this season, and this is the thanks that they are given by their administration. They understood the risks of participating in a COVID-season and they signed on to play anyway. And frankly, if the risk of COVID is that high on Fordham’s campus right now, then the safest place for the team to be right now is NOT on campus.

The proposal offered by the Women’s Basketball team is to complete their season on the road. Their travel plans would take the Rams to Dayton, Saint Louis and finally Richmond, VA for the Atlantic 10 Tournament where Fordham was well on their way to a top-four finish at worst. Especially considering all Tier 1 members of Fordham’s program are currently healthy, it only makes sense for them to be allowed to complete the final 2-3 weeks of the season. Not to mention Fordham has tested their women’s basketball team 1,400 times in the past six months. Not ONE SINGLE TEST has come back positive. Not ONE.

But it doesn’t look like the University has any plans on budging.

These women DESERVE to play. They DESERVE a chance to complete their season. They have done everything right, and have managed to navigate the murky waters of this COVID-season better than almost anyone.

In a closing response to me, Edona echoed her teammates desire to play, stating:

“With 1400 negative test, and zero positives. I think these numbers are a testament to how committed we have been all year long to stay safe and healthy. Our coaches and team have worked extremely hard to keep us going. We just want to finish what we started. It is heartbreaking to see this opportunity get stripped away from us with no control over it. We understand that everyone is being affected by this and are not trying to minimize any other program or club on campus. But we have proven ourselves for months with negative test results and we just want to be trusted and granted a special opportunity to finish off our season.”

This story is beginning to receive national attention, but they need your help. Make your voice heard.

Sign the petition here:

https://www.change.org/p/father-mcshane-let-fordham-women-s-basketball-play?use_react=false

Hopefully Fordham University makes the right decision and let’s their women’s basketball team finish their season. It’s the right thing to do.

Special thanks to Kaitlyn Downey and Edona Thaqi for allowing me to share their story. These women are showing tremendous grace and strength under extraordinary circumstances- I’m not sure I would be able to posses their strength if I were in their shoes. I salute them and all of Fordham Women’s Basketball.