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Groups file suit against Michigan Health Department to force return of high school sports

basketball sitting on a wooden basketball court
Gene Gallin

A lawsuit filed Tuesday is seeking to lift a state ban on high school sports immediately.

The state Health department issued the order last month putting basketball, wrestling, and other winter contact sports on hold until February 21 as part of the effort to slow the spread of COVID-19.The order is the latest in a series by state health officials that have disrupted the high school sports calendar.But critics point out other state imposed coronavirus shutdowns have been lifted, including a ban on indoor dining which ended Monday.

Attorney Peter Ruddell represents Let Them Play Michigan, the Michigan Amateur Youth Hockey League, and five families with high school age student athletes in the lawsuit filed in the Court of Claims.

“The goal of the lawsuit is to get student athletes the opportunity to play as soon as possible,” says Ruddell, “They need to be on the court for their mental health, their emotional health, their physical health, and their long-term education and career pathways.”

A state health department spokeswoman says they do not comment on litigation and do not "make decisions based on lawsuits, but on data and the ongoing advice of public health experts.or the Michigan Attorney General’s office to the lawsuit."

While the lawsuit is challenging the state order on several grounds, there is one specific issue for the plaintiffs. Their attorney concedes there is no specific legal precident that links athletics to a student’s education.

“There has not been a case to our knowledge at this point that links athletics as a key component of a student’s education,” says Ruddell, “We’re still searching for that magic case.”

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Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
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