They called Chad Owens a superhero of sorts back in the day.
The former Hawaii and pro football player was “Mighty Mouse” back then as he dominated competition on the turf at Aloha Stadium. Now, he’s an activist on behalf of high school student-athletes. Owens announced the establishment of “Safe Sports 808” on Tuesday afternoon. This comes just days after the former Hawaii standout gave his full support to son Chad Owens Jr., a Moanalua football player who began a petition to spark discussion of bringing high school sports back from cancellations due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Myself, along with many others of the Safe Sports 808 working group are dedicated to helping our future leaders of Hawaii. Our mission is this: to maximize safety, and improve mental and physical health while minimizing the need for quarantining, increasing classroom performance and opening extracurricular activities for academic success,” Owens said with a group of high school student-athletes at his side. “We are excited to announce that we have the support of the Honolulu City Council. We will be working diligently to create recommendations that will be given to the mayor by Monday regarding the safe return of sport.”
The grass-roots work of father and son has marched forward, arm in arm with Councilmember Andria Tupola. Resolution 21-18 is on the board following Tupola’s community Zoom forum that included all four mayors, Owens and a number of athletic directors.
“The resolution that we took up was for group organized sports,” Tupola said. “Currently, outdoor group sports are only allowed in Tier 4. We have to get below 20 cases (per day). For Oahu, it does not appear we will ever be in that position. Why can’t we amend it? Why can’t we allow for Tier 2, Tier 3 to allow for sports with no spectators, testing every two weeks?”
The City Council supports the resolution, Tupola said.
“All the City Council members are in support. We amended it to add that we would be talking about all sports, including indoor sports. Currently, DOE schools cannot use city parks for P.E., recess, fire drills even if they are following the CDC guidelines,” she added.
Tupola said the working group will have its plan submitted to Mayor Rick Blangiardi by Monday.
“I want our thoughts and our work to be in front of his team so that they can draw upon the efforts that the coaches and athletic directors are going to put in a document of sports safety and the safe opening of sports. The coolest part is the DOE has been drawing up its own guidelines, which will be very broad. What we’ll be coming up with is to have is more specific for each sport,” Tupola said. “The recommendation is that just as much effort as we gave for tourism into our children. We want them to be the leaders in tomorrow, to invest in them just as much as we put into any other issue in the community.”
Jason Chai Wilson is one of the organizers who help spark momentum for the Safe Sports 808 movement. Wilson, 40, a husband and father of four children. He played basketball and volleyball, and later coached the two sports, along with football and baseball at his alma mater, Kohala.
“I would’ve probably not have been as motivated to reach my potential if I didn’t have sports,” he said. “We had a minimum grade-point average of 2.0, but my volleyball coach Jonathan Marquez said we have to make 3.0. It wasn’t a rule. It was a challenge to do better. Without sports, I probably wouldn’t have done that.”
Wilson’s “crowd” back then was more into surfing and cutting class.
“So I couldn’t cut class because I had an obligation to my team. Then I became a leader, and some that were like me went into sports and dedicated themselves to the team instead,” said Wilson, who graduated in 1998.
The Safe Sports 808 group will examine protocol and procedures that have been used in Utah and Washington, said Wilson, who still resides on Hawaii Island. If progress can be made on Oahu, he believes, the same will happen across the islands.
“It’s hard to change the DOE and their thoughts, especially who’s liable for what, but we’re hoping we can convince the mayors to open up parks for all sports, including high schools. Our vision is just getting people involved. We have a small team, and we need more people,” he said.
“I think about these kids who are juniors and seniors who don’t have an opportunity and nobody’s trying to give it to them. I said, I’m done talking. I told my wife and my son, Hezekiah, if you believe in something so much, you act out on it. So I made all the calls I could make. Now, the iron is super hot. Why not try?”