LAKELAND, Fla. (WFLA) – Student athletes at Florida Southern College are playing in front of fans again, who are required to prove they are not at risk of spreading COVID-19.
Spectators are limited to registered family members and a vaccination card is one way to gain entry to the game.
“If they’re already vaccinated and can show proof of vaccination then we can essentially not require the 72 hour negative COVID test,” said Dean Howard, Director of Athletics & Dean of Wellness at Florida Southern College.
Due to that distinction, college leadership says the rules do not violate Gov. Ron DeSantis’ order prohibiting so-called “vaccine passports.”
“There is no requirement to have a vaccine to come and watch our live sporting events. You’re more than welcome to come with a negative COVID test. That is perfectly acceptable to us,” said Howard.
Gov. DeSantis has spoken out for weeks against businesses requiring proof of vaccination for entry.
“If you do a vaccine passport to say ‘Yea, if you want to go to a movie theater or you want to get on a plane or you want to do that’, that is a bridge further than we have ever gone in this country, without question,” he said.
College leadership also points out a line in the Governor’s order that says it “does not restrict businesses from instituting COVID-19 screening protocols.”
“We are a private campus and it’s a unique situation we have. We understand there’s some restrictions there but it’s an opportunity for us to protect those student-athletes, keep them safe and healthy, protect our opportunities to compete,” said Howard.
The rules at Florida Southern College are imposed by the Sunshine State Conference, which just this week changed protocols to allow family members to attend sporting events with these restrictions.
Attendance is limited to 25% and face coverings are required.
“It’s completely different playing with even a couple parents there rather than a completely empty stadium. It’s a different feel,” said Jeff Atlas, a junior men’s lacrosse player at Florida Southern College.
Atlas said his recently vaccinated parents are planning a trip from New York to attend a game.
Hundreds of FSC students were vaccinated at an event on Friday. At this time, students are still not allowed at sporting events.