LANSING — State Rep. Graham Filler, R-DeWitt, Tuesday called on Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to end her suspension of winter contact sports and allow student-athletes to begin practice and competition.
Filler, who represents Clinton County, said sports play a critical role in shaping the character of student-athletes, teaching them teamwork, sportsmanship and healthy lifestyle choices.
“There’s simply no proof to show that playing basketball, or any other school organized sport, has contributed to the increased spread of COVID-19 in our kids,” Filler said in a prepared statement. “Suspending the winter contact sport season any longer is not necessary. It’s not supported by data and it’s causing undue harm to our young people.
“It’s unacceptable to continue enforcing broad, sweeping restrictions without providing any metrics about why they are being implemented or what needs to happen before they are lifted. We must start having practical conversations about what steps need to be taken for people to return to their lives,” he said.
According to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, the state has seen 552,556 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 14,405 deaths. In Shiawassee County, the numbers are 3,347 and 67.
The Michigan High School Athletic Association’s COVID-19 testing program that allowed football, volleyball and girls swimming and diving to conclude their seasons has conducted more than 30,000 rapid tests on student athletes over the last month, and 99.8 percent have been negative.
Ryan Cunningham, district superintendent and girls basketball coach at Ovid-Elsie Area Schools, said his school system has proven sports can be played safely.
“Our district completed middle school girls’ basketball without issue,” Cunningham said. “We have successfully had practices at the high school level for well over a week and in some cases over two weeks. The data shows a decline in cases.
“Coaches, players and school administrators understand the risks involved,” Cunningham said. “The MHSAA promotes athletics as an extension of the classroom and notes physical and mental health as benefits. We should be given the opportunity to at least try.”