Let Them Play – the group of student-athletes and advocates wanting to allow winter contact sports to begin competing – filed a lawsuit today in the Court of Claims against Department of Health and Human Services Director Elizabeth Hertel claiming several violations of the state and U.S. constitutions along with state statute.
The suit – Let Them Play v. Hertel – also includes the Michigan Amateur Youth Hockey League and five parents or guardians of youth athletes who have been barred from playing hockey or basketball through a DHHS order.
“Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Michiganders have lived under unprecedented restrictions to their daily activities. Student-athletes have been particularly hard-hit, as they have been deprived of both in-person school instruction and the ability to participate in athletics,” the lawsuit says. “For these athletes, participation in high school sports is crucial to their physical and mental health, essential for maintenance and advancement of their athletic skills, invaluable to their training, and the irreplaceable source of opportunities to associate with peers and mentors. Furthermore, such participation is absolutely necessary if they are to avail themselves of crucial economic opportunities only available through participation in high school sports.”
It argues the DHHS order barring winter contact sports – hockey, basketball, cheer and wrestling – violates equal protection, the plaintiffs’ due process rights, the right to free assembly, the right to free education, the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act and the Administrative Procedures Act.
The suit seeks declaratory and injunctive relief preventing enforcement of the DHHS order barring these contact winter sports. It argues there is no evidence to support the barring of those activities and cites evidence raised in the past, like a Wisconsin study on cases related to sports in the fall and a DHHS testing program that saw few positive results.
DHHS has said it will continue to make data-focused decisions to protect public health. It has pointed to 42 outbreaks tied to athletics in K-12 schools, professional settings, collegiate settings and commercial venues in August and September of 2020 before restrictions were implemented.