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In 1918, Football Games Were Allowed to Continue During the Influenza Pandemic, But There Were Rules


René F. Najera, DrPH

May 25, 2020

This is an interesting article from the Atlanta Journal Constitution about a Georgia Tech football game celebrated in 1918 during the influenza pandemic that went around the world in 1918 and 1919. The article talks about the history of a photograph taken at the game and how the world in and around Georgia changed with the pandemic.


As for the Tech-Pitt game, it brought together the 1916 national champion (Pitt) and the 1917 national champ (Tech), the first Southern team to earn that distinction. The Tornado was unbeaten in 33 games, including the 222-0 win over Cumberland in 1916. The Panthers, meanwhile, had a 27-game unbeaten streak.Tech’s lineup included left end Bill Fincher, left halfback Buck Flowers and right halfback Joe Guyon, all of whom would be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame along with Heisman.“GRIDIRON TITANS TO BATTLE” screamed the headline of the Pittsburgh Press on the day of the game. But it was not to be for Tech. Before a crowd of 30,000 and a host of writers from New York, the Tornado bowed 32-0 to the Panthers.By that time, the public gathering ban had been rescinded on Oct. 25 by the Atlanta city council following debate that may also strike a chord. Atlanta’s board of health was split on whether to recommend that the city council rescind its order prohibiting public gatherings. While Kennedy (the city health officer) recommended the ban be lifted, two other doctors on the board asserted conditions had not sufficiently cleared, one saying that not all the influenza cases had been counted.Speaking on behalf of city theaters, a city councilman advocated for a reopening. When the board proposed putting the matter off until Nov. 2, Mayor Asa Candler, founder of Coca-Cola, pushed back on the grounds that it was impossible to know what the conditions would be like in a week’s time. The city council voted 19-4 in favor of rescinding the ban. Theaters, dance halls and churches were quick to reopen. Athens ended its quarantine for UGA the same day.

You can see the full image at the article page:


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