Ammon Bundy, center, allegedly refused to wear a mask during a football game at Caldwell High School on Friday. After he refused to leave school property, the game against Emmett High was canceled. | Courtesy Jason McAdam
CALDWELL (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.
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.
“A small group of visitors refused to follow the safety requirements, including wearing face coverings, and were denied admittance to the game,” district spokesperson 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 ahead 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.”
Bundy and others affiliated with him have appeared at several public events and meetings across Idaho in recent months to protest the state’s coronavirus regulations, and is best known for being tried but not convicted in two federal standoffs. In August, he was arrested — twice — after incidents at the Idaho Statehouse. He has two sons who play football for Emmett.
Caldwell football coach Steve Fleshman said he and the players were in the locker room at halftime when they received instructions to stay inside. Although he missed the beginning of the incident, he said Bundy approached him and the Emmett coach shortly after.
“Ammon approached both of us and was livestreaming both of us,” Fleshman said. “He was giving his coach a hard time.”
Bundy documented portions of the night’s events in a series of videos posted and streamed live to his Facebook page. In one video published after the game, around 10 p.m., Bundy appears to argue with an Emmett football coach and say Caldwell police officers told him they would not enforce the school district’s mask rule. In another video, one unidentified Caldwell officer asks Bundy to leave but says they “are not going to physically remove” him.
Bundy was told before the game was stopped that he could cost Emmett a win and potentially a playoff spot.
“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.”
Calls and an email to the Caldwell Police Department was not returned by time of publication. Joe Decker, the spokesperson for the Canyon County Sheriff’s Office, confirmed there was an “incident involving Bundy at the game,” but deferred to the Caldwell Police Department for more information.
“Our priority is the safety of our children and the safety of our community,” Pesina said.