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Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

California high school sports have been shut down since the pandemic began and remain paused as numbers continue spiking statewide.

Where it stands: The state hoped to avoid the pandemic's apex by pushing sports to 2021. Instead, conditions have only gotten worse, putting that plan in jeopardy.

  • California high school athletics are tentatively scheduled to begin later this month, but they're still subject to individual county's safety tiers.
  • As of Tuesday, just four of 58 counties were below the most restrictive tier, which only allows for the most socially-distanced sports like golf, tennis and cross country.

Meanwhile, most other states have already completed their fall football seasons and are now in the midst of their winter basketball campaigns.

  • Football: 34 states have completed (or will by this weekend) their seasons, leaving 17 (including D.C.) with tentative or TBA start dates.
  • Basketball: 32 states' seasons are already underway, with eight more slated to begin in the next three weeks.
  • Other sports like soccer and volleyball have also crowned champions.

The state of play: California's athletic prowess is nearly unmatched, so this pause has deprived the high school sports landscape of many of its top players and teams.

2019 National Champion St. John Bosco's empty stadium in December. Source: @boscofootball (Instagram)

What they're saying: Some are against the statewide pause, like North Torrance HS baseball coach Joshua Lee, who argues that starting them up again would be both safer and more equitable than keeping them shelved.

  • "Over 70% of my players have traveled out of state multiple times during this pandemic," Lee told the L.A. Times (subscription), adding that "only those with the means to travel to expensive out-of-state tournaments are able to."

The big picture: Others have gone a step further, circumventing restrictions to give kids the athletic outlet they're missing.

  • Take Jordan Campbell, a former California high school football star with a brief NFL career.
  • His training center, Winner Circle Athletics, launched a club football league in the fall with 34 teams, 18 games a weekend and 1,500 players.

What's next: Statewide "Let them play" rallies are planned for Friday. "This is about the kids and their mental health," one mother said.

Go deeper

Jan 21, 2021 - Sports

Trump's exit could spell return for White House sports traditions

Then-Vice President Joe Biden at a game between the Army-Navy football game on December 8, 2012. Photo: Hunter Martin/Getty Images

The Biden administration is unlikely to leverage sports as a culture war in the same way that President Trump's did.

The big picture: The longstanding tradition of champions visiting the White House — dating back to the 1860s but becoming a more regular practice in the past half century — changed significantly in the past four years.

UNC race conscious admissions process upheld by judge

Students walk through the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on Aug. 18, 2020 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Photo: Melissa Sue Gerrits/Getty Images

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill can continue its race conscious admissions process, a federal judge ruled on Monday.

Why it matters: The case could end up in the Supreme Court after the conservative nonprofit Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA) vowed to appeal the judge's ruling that UNC didn't discriminate against against white and Asian American applicants in its policy that it said was designed to increase diversity.

SEC debunks conspiracy theories about meme stock mania

Photo: Alessia Pierdomenico/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The SEC issued its long-awaited report on the meme stock mania, which downplayed the narrative that a "short squeeze" was the primary driver behind GameStop's historic stock moves — and shot down conspiracy theories about the event.

Why it matters: The postmortem was highly anticipated, largely because of what it could hint about what the regulator thinks should be done in wake of the saga. But the report stopped short of specific policy recommendations.