As social restrictions tighten due to the rise in COVID-19 cases, so do sports league restrictions.
As of Jan. 6, the number of COVID-19 cases in Ontario is rising, prompting the Ontario government to release an updated return-to-play framework for both professional and elite amateur sport leagues and events. Included in this framework is a list of elite amateur leagues and events; however, just as they were excluded in June of 2021, both Ontario University Athletics and USPORTS were not included.
What does it mean to be an elite amateur and why isn’t the OUA an elite amateur league? The framework given by the Government of Ontario did not explain what qualifications are required to be considered elite amateur. One of the leagues included in this list is the Ontario Scholastic Basketball Association. This insinuates that OUA basketball athletes who would have been able to practice and play in high school are now no longer able to play as they are not considered elite.
As such, the OUA immediately responded with the hashtag, #OUAisELITE. Coaches and players alike took to social media and began posting using this hashtag.
“University sport in Canada is ELITE. It’s time for [governments] to understand our collective benefit to Canada. @USPORTSca stands with all of our conferences and members to say #OUAisELITE and student-athletes deserve to be recognized as being as such!” stated USPORTS Canada.
Elite by definition refers to something being a choice part or the best of a class. The OUA claims to be deserving of the title of elite by explaining their athletes’ efforts academically, in the community and historically as many of their athletes graduate and move on to compete in the Olympics and many other national and international competitions.
“The notion that the hard-working student-athletes, who have long strived toward the goal of competing at the post-secondary level and proudly representing one of the OUA’s 20 member institutions in the sport they love, aren’t considered elite by the Government of Ontario is a disservice to the dedication, commitment and talent that they continue to show on a day-to-day basis,” said the OUA in a statement made on Jan. 4.
In support of this argument, nearly two dozen players decided to leave the OUA and sign professional contracts knowing they would not be able to play.
Before these new restrictions were put into play, the OUA had previously decided to delay all games including league play, exhibitions and scrimmages from Jan. 6 to Jan. 24. Since gyms were still open, the athletes could continue practicing during these weeks and launch straight into league play on Jan 24. However, since teams are unable to practice until Jan. 27, official league play cannot resume until the second week of February, after the athletes have had two weeks of practice. This will effectively cut many teams’ seasons short.
Championship dates for basketball are to be decided on or around Mar. 5, with volleyball following in two weeks.