The Ray pauses pick-up basketball through Feb. 13


Nate Burleyson

A raised basketball hoop on Court 2 on the third floor of the Ray Meyer Fitness Center.

Hobby hoopers are out of luck: Campus Recreation announced a timeout for pick-up basketball players after identifying them to be some of the worst mask noncompliance offenders on campus.

The Ray Meyer Fitness Center paused drop-in/pick-up basketball play from Feb. 3 to Feb. 13, due to high rates of mask noncompliance, the Department of Campus Recreation said in an email. Overall, gym-goers are following public health regulations, the department said — but pick-up basketball players are dragging the team down.

The Ray requires gym-goers to wear their masks over their mouth and nose in all parts of the facility, besides the swimming pool, since August of 2021, when the city of Chicago’s mandate went into effect. To enforce guidelines on the basketball courts, an attendant  oversees mask compliance and overall play during peak hours.

“Masks must be worn at all times when inside a health and fitness center, including while exercising,” Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) guidelines state.

Pick-up basketball often fills The Ray’s four courts on the third level, often peaking during the late afternoon and early evening. As many as four  five-on-five games can go on at the same time.

“While the overall compliance has been good, there has been a higher incidence of noncompliance in the gymnasium, specifically with pick-up and drop-in basketball,” Director of Campus Recreation Maureen McGonagle said in a statement. “Staff have tried a variety of strategies to improve compliance, including increased signage, announcements, specific staff training and additional staffing.”

When staff didn’t see mask compliance improve, they decided to put drop-in and pick-up basketball on  ‘pause,’ according to McGonagle.

“The hope is that players will be more attentive to the mask policy when the pause is over,” McGonagle said.

Although basketball is paused through Sunday, other activities such as volleyball, badminton and pickleball will be available, as well as court space reserved for intramurals and classes.

“I would say yes, people don’t always keep the mask above their nose during pick-up play,” DePaul graduate and current Ray member Tyler Malone said. “But overall, everyone does wear them and tries to keep compliance.”

Specifically it is more difficult to enforce the mask mandate where physical activity is higher. Some players admit that people don’t always wear masks according to DePaul’s standards.

“I agree, but I don’t think they’re doing it on purpose,” senior and frequent basketball player Sunghun Jung said. “And yeah, the employees do [enforce it] but the mask just slips down a lot of times and makes it easier to breathe.”

Mask-wearing has become mandatory for athletes in Illinois High School Athletics games and tournaments. Often, athletes just slip the mask under their nose or chin and play on, with little pushback.

“Closing hoops was a fair decision, but I honestly don’t think it’ll change anything because it’s sort of a natural instinct to have our masks under our nose when we play,” Jung said.

“Physical activity and social interaction are incredibly important to well-being, so staff were careful to limit the pause to those activities that most needed it,” McGonagle said. “Staff will continue to monitor the situation and communicate the importance of mask compliance to all participants in all activities.”

The question as to what happens after the pause still stands. If low rates of compliance persist, the option of further pauses remains, according to the Ray. That will depend on how things change after the pause ends on Sunday.