Opinion: Dear DePaul, let us hoop

DePaul Campus Recreation sent out an email on Feb. 1 that shook the campus’ casual basketball community to its core. The Ray Meyer Fitness Center is suspending basketball on the building’s third floor gymnasium from Feb. 3 to Feb. 13. According to the email, the reason was:

“High volumes of participant non-compliance with Chicago and Illinois Department of Public Health face covering policy.”

The email stated that basketball will be the only sport to be banned for this period. Courts will be open for all other drop-in sports, such as soccer, volleyball, badminton, etc. The message also insinuates basketball may be banned permanently if improper mask usage persists.

As the Russel Westbrook of DePaul’s daytime pick-up basketball scene, I’m shocked. I’m disappointed. I’m  upset.

Basketball at the Ray has been, frankly, one of the only things I’ve consistently looked forward to at the school for the past two years. And I have taken their strict mask policy seriously. I’ve even worn KN-95s on the court for pandemic safety, enduring consistent and painful ear chafing, all for the love of the game.

There have been several times that I’ve gone to shoot around all by myself, without another soul on the entire four-court floor. Still, I wear my mask properly, not wanting to cause a disturbance. All jokes aside, I understand the importance of the mask policy on DePaul’s campus. However, this banning of one of the Ray’s most popular pastimes seems like a targeted overreaction.

If there was an instance of a Covid-19 outbreak linked to one or more pick-up games at the Ray, then I could support the activity’s suspension. Though the community has not been given any evidence to suggest this is the case. I can’t speak for the Monday night games, which are mostly rostered by older non-students. But during my daytime games with fellow DePaul classmates, compliance with the mask policy has been nearly perfect.

That’s not to say the Ray hasn’t had any issues. I’ve seen several games be interrupted should a stray nostril be spotted. But the offender would fix their mask, and the game would continue. Even if there was an outburst or a group of mask-refusers, shouldn’t the individuals be suspended from playing instead of the activity as a whole?

My biggest issue with the basketball ban is that it seems to be rooted in a resentment for individuals disobeying the policy, rather than student safety as a whole. From personal experience, a student with an exposed nose is much quicker to be reprimanded on the basketball courts than on any other floor of the Ray.

Additionally, DePaul’s inconsistency with pandemic safety is on full display with this suspension of play. After all, this is the same institution fully content with students riding in packed CTA trains to get to in-person classes. Now, they’re banning basketball because of a few bad actors. I can confidently say that Ray pick-up games have a far higher mask compliance rate than the CTA does.

I know it’s just 10 days. But from the tone of the email sent out to students, it implied that this could be permanent in the future. If student safety is really DePaul’s priority, they would make a better effort to preserve this everywhere, not just the places where they are liable. All I ask is for some consistency from their administration.

And for my fellow hoopers, when basketball does return, please mask up properly. Otherwise, my jumpshot may never be fixed.