LANSING — Cade Conley had hoped he would be back on the practice field with the Williamston football team, gearing up for the resumption of the state playoffs.
DeWitt senior Blake Beachnau had hoped for the same as the Division 3 top-ranked Panthers tried to add to a special football season.
Instead, both were in front of the Capitol on Friday afternoon hoping to have their voices heard. Conley and Beachnau were among a couple hundred people that took part in the “Let Them Play” rally that was aimed at getting high school athletes back in action.
High school sports activity in the state has been shut down since Nov. 15 when the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services put into place a three-week pause designed to slow the spread of COVID-19 amid rising case numbers. That pause came with the high school state tournaments in football, volleyball and girls swimming and diving still going on and not all winter sports having officially started practice.
The pause was extended another 12 days on Monday by state officials. The earliest high school sports could return at this point is Dec. 20, and the MHSAA representative council is planning to meet Wednesday to chart their path forward.
“I’m really hoping that the health department and Gov. (Gretchen) Whitmer can just take a look at that data and just have them see how it’s not spreading playing sports,” Beachnau said. “I’d love to finish the football season as soon as possible. Once football is done I would love to start hockey practice and get rolling with that as soon as possible. Everybody is just looking to get going and continue with what they love.”
Friday’s event was the second rally as part of the “Let Them Play” movement to take place at the Capitol. The group also had a rally on Aug. 28.
Conley also attended the earlier rally and said it’s important to try to get their message across.
“We just want to raise awareness, even for sports other than football, like basketball and dance and cheer,” Conley said. “For all those schools that have had their seasons canceled, we just want to raise awareness that the science does say it’s safe and we just want Gov. Whitmer to at least reconsider.”
Michigan is among the states that has currently halted all high school sports activity, while neighboring states Ohio, Indiana and Wisconsin have continued to play on, Pennsylvania shut down high school sports through Jan. 4 on Thursday. Minnesota and Illinois also paused sports activity last month. The four-week pause in Minnesota came with the state tournaments still going in football and volleyball and ends Dec. 18, while winter sports will not begin until January in Illinois.
Rally organizer Jayme McAlvany said she will keep fighting for kids in the state and said they have done all they were told to do.
“These kids obeyed every rule, no matter how crazy it was,” McAlvany said as part of her speech. “So why are we put in the no category with other things that are supposedly super spreaders (for COVID-19).
“Mark Uyl and the MHSAA submitted the data and you chose to ignore it. You chose to ignore the mental health decline of Michigan’s children. You chose to ignore that pediatricians all across the state are saying that they have never prescribed so many anti-depressants and anxiety medicines in their entire career. …You chose to ignore that children in the state are part of the vulnerable population that you refer to. These kids did their part in keeping the vulnerable part of the population in the state safe. So why doesn’t anyone care about them? It’s time that Gov. Whitmer and the health department open their eyes.”
Contact Brian Calloway at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @brian_calloway.