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'It Was Time To Push Back': NH Track Coach Fired After Refusing To Make Athletes Wear Masks During Races

PEMBROKE, N.H. (CBS) – A New Hampshire high school track and field coach said he was fired after refusing to enforce a mask mandate for athletes that he called "senseless, irrational, cowardice b---s---."

Pembroke Academy track and field coach Bradley Keyes said the school informed him that athletes would be required to wear masks during all races and the majority of field events during the upcoming spring season.

The guidelines were set by the New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association. Keyes said when he asked the school if it was guidance or a mandate, he was told that Pembroke and the schools it competes against agreed to adopt the mask policy.

In a blog post on Saturday, Keyes urged people to reach out to the school to let them know they disagree with the policy. Keyes also shared an email that he sent to Pembroke athletics director Fred Vezina that began "I'll come straight to the point. I will not put kids on the track and tell them to run any races while wearing masks."

"I will not stand up in front of the kids and lie to them and tell them that these masks are doing anything worthwhile out in an open field with wind blowing and the sun shining," Keyes wrote, later adding, "These insane policies are robbing kids of once in a lifetime opportunities for no valid reason other than irrational fears and going along with the sheep."

Keyes, who is in his fourth year as coach, concluded the letter by telling Vezina "Fire me if you must."

Pembroke Academy Coach
Former Pembroke Academy track and field coach Bradley Keyes. (WBZ-TV)

On Monday, Keyes posted a new blog entry, saying "I have been fired. I am not surprised. I made my choice to speak out. They made theirs."

"One of the fundamental parts of all of this is learning to play by the rules. The rules supposedly put in place in order to create a fair and level playing field, to let everyone know what is expected and allowed, and then to let the best man, woman, or team win," Keyes wrote. "Except now we are adding arbitrary, senseless, ill-thought rules."

WBZ-TV reached out the Pembroke Academy for comment, but has not yet received a response.

Keyes wrote that "the real crime in this situation" is "undermining one of the cornerstones of high school sports and the lessons we hope to teach these young adults. I won't be a part of that."

Track team member David Testerman is concerned about running with a mask this spring.

"It gets you really tired especially when it gets up to 80 degrees soon and it's going to be really hard for us to keep doing what we live to do," said Testerman.

In an interview with WBZ-TV, Keyes, who is not a teacher at Pembroke Academy, said he has received dozens of messages of support.

"I didn't give (the school) any real choice. I backed them into a corner. What I wanted was to make a point. I was hoping the word would get out some and maybe there would be enough reaction that down the road, maybe in a few weeks or later, some of the restrictions would be changed," Keyes said. "I just think people haven't pushed back and I decided it was time to push back."

Keyes says the masks are OK while the team is on the bus, but he doesn't think they're necessary outdoors.

"I wear a mask where I have to. I'll wear a mask when I go into stores or any private business that wants me to," Keyes said. "Based on what I read honestly I don't believe they do much good."

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