Pembroke Academy Coach Fired Over Non-Mask Stance

Video by CBS WBIZ 4 Boston

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Bradley Keyes, a former Pembroke Academy track and field coach, was fired on Monday by the New Hampshire school after he refused to buckle under pressure from administration to enforce a strict rule of mask-wearing during practice and competition, the New Hampshire Union Leader first reported.

"There's very little indication that coronavirus spreads outdoors," said Keyes, as reported by The Union Leader. "There's no scientific justification for any of these requirements, and I'm not willing to go in front of the kids and basically lie to them and say 'this is for your protection' or there's a reason for it or it makes any sense."

Keyes later did tell a local news station that he would have advised his athletes to wear masks on buses or in other situations that required of it. He would not budge during training or competing, though. 

The New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association, the governing body which regulates athletic competition in the state, is currently pending new regulation looking to "require face coverings for all participants" for the outdoor track and field championships, though currently it follows National Federation of High School Associations (NFHS) guidelines. 

The NFHS offers recommendations for state associations to consider, including mask-wearing during practice and competition. It recommends that field and hurdle athletes, based on the nature of those events and out of safety concerns, take off masks during competition and then put them back on directly after competition. 

Keyes was in his fourth year leading the program. He was not a teacher at the school. 

The Union Leader reported that Pembroke Academy was requiring that all running athletes, as well as individuals in the horizontal and vertical jumps, were to wear masks before, during and after competition. 

Keyes maintained that he would not allow that to happen under his watch. 

On Saturday, writing a post on the athletic page, he titled a post, 'Fire Me If You Must.' On Monday, his follow up was, 'I Have Been Fired - A Farewell Message.' 

"I could come up with other examples where this could potentially be dangerous, but I don't think that's the fundamental problem," Keyes told the Union Leader. "I think the fundamental problem with it is that these rules and regulations are being put in place to cover (rear ends), basically."

Pembroke Athletic Director Fred Vezina did not comment to the Union Leader or WBZ 4 Boston. 

Keyes has since maintained his stance. 

"I could not stand up in front of the kids and tell them that (wearing masks while competing) is good and makes sense, and I certainly couldn't tell them that they have to wear masks in these races," Keyes told the Union Leader. "I've run all these races. It's idiotic."

Keyes wrote on Saturday that he is intending to continue coaching privately in the summer and fall in the Pembroke area. 

"I am planning to start up a private track and field club that will be available to anyone and everyone during the summer and fall," he said. "I plan to still coach no matter what, just likely in a different capacity."