Student-athletes recount stories during Let Them Play rally at State Capitol

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) — Dozens of student-athletes from all sports went to the State Capitol Thursday, demanding they be allowed to return to play competitive sports. 

The Let Them Play CA grassroots advocacy group delivered boxes of letters to the governor and other lawmakers urging them to ease guidelines. 

“We are here today to ask Governor Newsom to lift the ban on youth sports and to let them play,” said Brad Hensley, co-founder of Let Them Play CA.

With dozens of student-athletes wearing jerseys and holding signs, Thursday’s rally allowed some to share their stories. 

“I want to tell you a story about this girl: Sports were her life. She did gymnastics, dance and played softball while growing up,” Zelbee Radar began. 

Radar plays volleyball at Bella Vista High School in Fair Oaks. 

“She started partying, drinking, doing things she said she would never do because of athletics,” Radar said. “Then the word came round that college sports were canceled. That’s when Oregon State told her the likelihood of her playing there was low because of corona. For about five months, it was unknown if she was even going to college anymore.” 

She said the student’s inability to play this year has had a lasting impact on many student-athletes’ futures. 

“She was blacking out every night to forget she was even alive,” Radar said. “She was worthless in her eyes. There were times she sat in her room staring at her wall wondering what it would be like to just disappear.

“I am this girl. I am the one who went through this.”

Craig McMillian Jr. plays basketball and football at Capital Christian High School in Sacramento. 

“I lived in situations where I was in and out of homes. I wasn’t always there academically. But sports was always my ticket out,” McMillian Jr. said. 

Both students feel lawmakers could do more to let them play, especially considering how many other activities have returned. 

“We can go to protests, go to strip clubs and casinos. The Super Bowl game had 22,000 fans in their stadium, but I can’t have a senior year or play a single volleyball game,” Radar said. 

“We don’t care if we have fans. We don’t care if we have 100 capacity, 50, 25, 10 or even zero. Just let us play,” McMillan Jr. said. 

Hensley said he’s had consistent contact with the governor and his staff. While they are optimistic guidelines may come soon that allow kids to play, so far, they haven’t seen them. 

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