Let Them Play, a group advocating for the full return of high school sports in Michigan, has filed a lawsuit against the state’s health department.
The lawsuit filed in the Michigan Court of claims argues the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) violated the U.S. Constitution, Michigan constitution, and state law when it forbid contact sports until at least Feb. 22.
The winter sports season was scheduled to begin Monday. It includes basketball, cheerleading, ice hockey, and wrestling.
Let Them Play attorney Peter B. Ruddell of Honigmann LLP is asking a judge to overturn the order so winter sports can resume.
“MDHHS’s January 22 Order arbitrarily and irrationally singles out and deprives Plaintiffs of their rights and freedoms to associate with other students and engage in athletic competitions, while allowing other high school athletes to compete in “non-contact” sports; older athletes to compete in “contact sports”; and businesses to operate that create larger public-health risks than the prohibited high school sports,” the lawsuit states.
According to the suit, Michigan has failed to demonstrate why collegiate and professional sports can resume while high school athletics can’t.
MDHHS officials defended the order barring winter sports, saying COVID-19 is still a serious danger and could be spread by athletes.
"The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and Governor Whitmer took decisive action during the recent surge of COVID-19 cases that threatened to overrun hospitals," MDHHS spokeswoman Lynn Sutfin told Metro Times
in a statement. "According to recent data from the University of Michigan School of Public Health, those actions likely prevented over 100,000 new cases and 1,960 or more deaths. As the numbers in Michigan continue to decline, and as the governor has already indicated, the administration is reviewing current mitigation measures, including those around contact sports."
She added, "As to the particular lawsuit, the administration does not generally comment on litigation and does not make decisions based on lawsuits, but on data and the ongoing advice of public health experts."
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