Michigan Republican Senator introduces 'Let them play' resolution for winter sports

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer has come under fire for her administration's actions that have prevented winter contact sports including basketball to start play amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Now a Republican state senator is introducing a resolution to urge the governor to lift the suspension.

Sen. Dale Zorn, a Republican representing parts of Lenawee and Monroe County, introduced2 the 'Let them play' resolution on Wednesday.

In the resolution, the Ida Republican recognizes that the order was intended "to be in the best interests of students" but says the prohibition goes too far and ignores other "serious harms that students are facing from the continued suspension of high school sports". 

In mid-November, Whitmer's office issued a pause to most activities, including high school athletics. Most of the restrictions were slowly relaxed but not winter contact sports.

"This is about standing up for our student-athletes and the positive physical and mental health benefits that participating in sports provides our children," said Zorn. "Michigan schools and athletes have taken preventive steps to stay safe and worked hard to prepare for a shortened season — only to see their seasons delayed another 20 days with little evidence that they are major drivers in spreading COVID-19."

Michigan is one of only a few states in the nation that is not currently allowing or scheduled to allow the resumption of winter sports. That's a sticking point for Zorn who says Michigan high school students are not getting the same opportunities their peers in other states are getting.

"Nearly every state, and all our neighboring states, are allowing their students to participate in winter sports and they have not seen significant outbreaks. Michigan should offer our students the same opportunity to play," said Zorn.

Zorn cites data from the executive director of the Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA), which reported that over 30,000 rapid COVID-19 tests of athletes in fall sports were conducted with a negative rate of 99.8%.

He's not alone in his desire to resume winter sports. Earlier this week, Detroit's superintendent, Dr. Nikolai Vitti, sent a letter to the Governor's office, urging her to reconsider the prohibition as other, more risky activities have resumed.

Whitmer said during her press conference on Monday that the state must be cautious as a new strain has developed and is spreading Washtenaw and Wayne Counties.