Ohio Children’s Football League Reverses Decision, Allows HIV-Positive Man To Fill Coaching Position
The governing board of the Ellet Suburban Football League, a children's football league outside of Akron, Ohio, on Thursday overturned an earlier decision that barred an HIV-positive man from being an assistant coach and restored the man to the position, the Akron Beacon Journal reports (Wallace, Akron Beacon Journal, 8/8). Dan Gable, director of the league, on Aug. 3 called a board meeting after receiving anonymous telephone calls from people identifying themselves as parents of children in the league who said that they were concerned about Stephen Derrig coming into contact with their children on the field because of his HIV-positive status. The league -- which is overseen by the Ellet Amateur Athletic Association -- subsequently voted to prohibit Derrig from coaching. However, at a meeting the following night, almost all of the members of the board announced their resignations when many parents said that the board was making an "ill-informed" decision (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 8/7). League President Mike Moye said that the board changed its position on Derrig -- who is the father of a child on the football team -- after meeting with heath care professionals and an attorney. He added that restoring Derrig to the position was "what the board had planned to do all along," according to the Beacon Journal. Moye said that the board will require parents of team members to sign a waiver stating that they are aware of Derrig's HIV-positive status, a condition to which Derrig has agreed, the Beacon Journal reports. Moye said, "We're fine with him coaching," adding, "It's up to the parents now. If [the parents of] 28 [children] sign [the waiver] and 12 don't, those 12 [children] won't be playing. Mr. Derrig will still be coaching."
HIV Status Well-Known
According to the Beacon Journal, Derrig's HIV-positive status was well-known in the community (Akron Beacon Journal, 8/8). The Beacon Journal in October 2002 profiled Derrig, who formerly served as a firefighter in Akron and has publicized his HIV status in an attempt to convince the state Legislature to provide health care coverage for firefighters who contract infectious diseases while on the job. Studies have shown that firefighters, paramedics and other emergency workers are more likely to contract HIV, hepatitis C and certain types of cancers than the general population. As of October 2002, 20 states had passed laws regarding the inclusion of hepatitis C, HIV and other diseases in workers' compensation plans for emergency medical workers (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 10/16/02).
Reinstatement Prevents More 'Embarrassment,' Editorial Says
"Fortunately," the Ellet Suburban Football League has overcome its "irrational forebodings" over Derrig's HIV status and reinstated him as a youth football coach, a Beacon Journal editorial says. The league's earlier decision to remove Derrig from his coaching position was "escalating into an embarrassment of national proportions," according to the Beacon Journal. A "crash course on AIDS" showed the league's board that the "odds of [HIV] transmission from coach to player were so small as to be incalculable," the editorial says. The league's decision -- agreed to by Derrig -- to request that parents sign a waiver confirming their awareness of Derrig's HIV-positive status is "unneeded," but the waiver will "force the parents who complained to confront their fears and follow the same thought process as the league board," the editorial says. Although the "outcry" over Derrig's removal as a coach shows that "most parents were already well ahead of the learning curve," the Beacon Journal concludes, "We hope the few who weren't do not automatically sign the bottom line of a waiver form but make the same effort at understanding" (Akron Beacon Journal, 8/10).