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Thousands rally outside Michigan Capitol to protest Gov. Whitmer's ban on winter sports

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Let Them Play

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Thousands of demonstrators from across the state of Michigan gathered outside the state Capitol in Lansing on Saturday in protest of Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's ban on winter sports.

According to MLive.com, included among the large crowd were high school coaches, players, and parents upset over the order issued last month, which suspended play for several contact sports in the state including basketball, ice hockey, wrestling, and competitive cheerleading.

On Jan. 22, Whitmer announced the new guidance from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, which declared that the start of indoor contact sports had been pushed back from Feb. 1 to Feb. 21. Though the ban appears just to be a temporary setback, due to the governor's penchant for strict lockdowns, many in the state are concerned that the winter sports season will only be pushed back again later in February, and ultimately never happen.

Leading the push for a return to sports is Let Them Play, a group that has reportedly seen its membership soar to more than 37,000 in recent days. Let Them Play organized the rally at the Capitol on Saturday and is also planning to file a lawsuit against the state.

When speaking about the rally to MLive, event organizer Jayme McElvany said, "There were easily 2,000 people here from across the state to show their support and some people from the [Upper Peninsula] drove nine hours just to be here today. The crowd was incredible and the kids who got up and spoke really showcased the emotions that everyone is going through right now."

"I feel like a mom to 60,000 kids right now and I couldn't be prouder of all of them for continuing to battle for their right to play organized youth sports," she added. "I'm fighting for all of them and we are working together to do what is right and let them play again."

Michigan's ban on contact sports operates under the premise that youth sporting events are major contributors to the community spread of the coronavirus. But Let Them Play spokesperson Peter Ruddell said that is simply not the case.

"The data and science that have been out for weeks supports the conclusion that it's safe for our students to begin playing high school athletics," Ruddell argued recently.

His view is supported by Michigan High School Athletic Association Director Mark Uyl, who claimed in a conference call that a recent pilot program found out of 5,300 individuals involved in the program for a month, only 57, or roughly 1%, had a positive test.

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