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Idaho high school football game stopped at halftime after dispute involving Ammon Bundy

Posted at 3:13 PM, Oct 03, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-04 00:26:08-04

CALDWELL, Idaho — This article was originally published by Nicole Foy of the Idaho Statesman.

The Caldwell School District shut down a football game against Emmett High School on Friday night after Ammon Bundy refused to wear a mask — and multiple unidentified callers made threats to the school over the situation.

District rules require parents and fans — only a limited number can attend each game — to wear masks and follow social distancing, according to Marisela Pesina, the chair of the Caldwell School Board.

Bundy, who appeared at the Friday night contest without a mask, refused to wear a mask or leave Caldwell High property. He may face criminal charges for trespassing, according to Caldwell Police Department spokesman Joey Hoadley.

“A small group of visitors refused to follow the safety requirements, including wearing face coverings, and were denied admittance to the game,” district spokeswoman Allison Westfall wrote in an email to parents that was also provided to the Idaho Statesman. “They were told they could watch from Brothers Park. Instead, they continued to loiter on the property and became disruptive.”

Caldwell police officers were called to the scene, but school officials decided to stop the game at halftime after “a threat to the safety of the school was made,” according to the email.

“Canyon County dispatch began receiving multiple calls from unidentified callers threatening acts of violence at the game stemming from the dispute over masks,” Hoadley clarified Saturday morning, “at which time the decision was made to cancel the game for the safety of students and fans.”

When the game was stopped, Emmett was winning 35-0.

Bundy streamed live video of himself during the first half, asked viewers to watch over him and at one point invited others to join him at the school.

“I’m very disappointed that our kids lost the chance to be able to play a Friday night football game,” Pesina told the Statesman. She said she did not arrive at the school until later. “Our parents have been following the rules and it makes me sad that because someone wants to prove their point, we had to stop our game.”

Caldwell police officers were called to the scene, but school officials decided to stop the game at halftime after “a threat to the safety of the school was made,” according to the email.

“Canyon County dispatch began receiving multiple calls from unidentified callers threatening acts of violence at the game stemming from the dispute over masks,” Hoadley clarified Saturday morning, “at which time the decision was made to cancel the game for the safety of students and fans.”

When the game was stopped, Emmett was winning 35-0.

Bundy streamed live video of himself during the first half, asked viewers to watch over him and at one point invited others to join him at the school.

“I’m very disappointed that our kids lost the chance to be able to play a Friday night football game,” Pesina told the Statesman. She said she did not arrive at the school until later. “Our parents have been following the rules and it makes me sad that because someone wants to prove their point, we had to stop our game.”

“When are you going to stand for freedom, Coach?” Bundy demanded, apparently standing outside a fence around the football field. “When are you going to do that? Is it worth a football game? Yes, it is worth it.”

Some angry parents confronted Bundy as they left the stadium. He was asked if the game stoppage involved him, and he said he thought it did.

“I will not put on a mask! I have a right not to put on a mask!” he yelled back at the parents and fans. “You guys should be brave enough to do the same thing.”

Fleshman emphasized that he had no hard feelings for Emmett and did not associate Bundy’s actions with their team.

“We hold Emmett in high regard in what they do over there,” Fleshman told the Statesman. “We know that’s not (the Emmett coach’s) situation and it’s something he has to deal with on their end. It’s sad the kids have to suffer because of that.”

Emmett School District Superintendent Craig Woods called the incident “incredibly sad” for the Emmett team, high school and community.

“They were winning the game, they’ve been having a great season, and they’ve worked hard,” Woods wrote in an email statement late Friday night. “We were the visitors. We should respect the host’s policies and procedures. Whether you agree or not when it comes to masks, the football team should not have to suffer the consequences. I’m proud of the Huskies. They did not ask for this.”

Hoadley said Caldwell officers have “discretion based on the totality of the circumstances” whether to make a physical arrest, issue a summons or send a report. He said police officers are present at school functions as a criminal deterrent and to maintain order on behalf of school administrators. Because Canyon County does not have a mask mandate, Hoadley said police cannot use force to enforce something only in school district policy and not in state or city ordinance.

“Officers prefer not to use physical force for non-violent crimes unless it is absolutely necessary,” Hoadley wrote in an email response to questions from the Statesman. “In this instance, officers opted to provide warnings on behalf of the Caldwell School District and once they were not heeded, route a criminal report describing the incident to the prosecuting attorney’s office for a charging decision for criminal trespass.”

Police are conducting a separate investigation into the threats made through dispatch. Suspects may also face criminal charges.

“Our priority is the safety of our children and the safety of our community,” Pesina said.