Coronavirus variant keeps winter sports benched

Coronavirus

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — It’s four in the afternoon and members of Grand Rapids Union High’s varsity basketball team are on the court for practice, COVID-19 style. That means no contact.

They practice even though they have yet to play in an actual game this season, and they’re not sure they’ll be able to. The problem: state COVID-19 restrictions that have prevented the start of the winter sports season.

“Not to minimize COVID-19 and people have lost their lives to COVID-19, but for us, it’s frustrating,” Union Coach Brandeon Guyton said. “How can everyone continue to say youth first? We care about kids, but not knowing the direct correlation sports has on kids’ mental health, the direct correlation sports has on student-athlete academics.”

Continuing to hope for good news from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, they’ve been disappointed every time.

Most recently, she blamed new player in the game for shutting down winter high school sports: a variant of the virus recently discovered in the state.

“The seriousness of it and the highly contagious aspect to this variant … it’s important that we keep watching the numbers,” Whitmer said during a Monday COVID-19 briefing.

She pointed to variant cases in Washtenaw County and the University of Michigan’s decision to pause sports as a result.

“I understand the concern that parents and athletes have and their desire to reengage,” Whitmer sympathized.

But that hasn’t been enough for many players and coaches. While restaurants, bars and other businesses are set for a restricted reopening, high school athletes remain on the sidelines.

“We have to take precautions, which makes sense. But why doesn’t she shut everything down?” Guyton said.

The group Let Them Play, made up of high school athletes, parents and coaches, has already taken their demand to the state Capitol lawn. Another rally is scheduled for Saturday.

The group is also in the process of filing a lawsuit against the state.

“I love how everyone is taking a stand,” Guyton said. “For us, we’re just trying to see how all of this makes sense for us not to play.”

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