LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Jim Runestad, R-White Lake, issued the following statement Wednesday regarding Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s continued refusal to let Michigan students play high school and youth sports:
“Since the beginning of this COVID-19 pandemic, our student athletes have been hit particularly hard. It has been about a week since this chamber unanimously passed a resolution urging the governor and the Department of Health and Human Services to end the suspension of high school and youth sports, and to allow them to resume play immediately.
“Over the weekend, thousands of demonstrators, athletes, coaches and parents from across the state gathered outside the Capitol begging the governor to lift the ban on winter sports.
“And yet, nothing has happened. It begs the question — why?
“According to the Michigan High School Athletic Association, the science says it’s safe. Tests conducted on over 30,000 fall sports athletes yielded a 99.8% negative rate. Students consistently test lower for COVID-19 than the general population.
“Our neighboring states have allowed their students to participate in winter sports with no major COVID-19 outbreaks reported. Activities that young people have relied on for joy and continuity like birthday parties, prom and homecoming have all been disrupted. They are now often spending months staring at computer screens.
“Without the traditions and social life they look forward to, many have stated ‘it’s hard for me to even get out of bed.’ According to a national survey of more than 3,000 high school and college students, 87% reported stress and anxiety, while 57% reported that their mental health had worsened since COVID-19.
“And all this occurring at a very crucial time in their personal and mental development. The evidence is clear. Other states have seen the data, and with it, they’ve made responsible choices that have allowed their kids to play, while still keeping them safe.
“Yes, other states have made responsible decisions. But for some reason, Michigan stands alone in its remorseless lockdown on youth sports.
“Sports are vital for a variety of reasons. Student athletes tend to have healthier lifestyles and better academic scores. Student athletes learn valuable life skills, like responsibility, accountability, inclusion, competition, leadership, and more, like being part of a team, being accountable to your teammates, and working together to achieve a collective goal.
“These are real lessons and skills that many of us in the Senate have benefited from and have utilized throughout our lives. Simply put, sports builds character.
“Deplorably, our students aren’t getting any of these benefits right now. They’re isolated and suffering from increased anxiety, and now they’re being denied some of life’s most precious memories.
“A chance to earn a scholarship — gone. The chance to play alongside friends, proudly representing their community, and living out their dreams — all gone. An opportunity to benefit from, and to demonstrate, years of hard work and practice — forever gone.
“All gone because of a single citizen’s unilateral political decision to ignore the science.
“Our students, coaches, administrators, and schools have followed the rules. They’ve done everything that’s been asked of them. What more are they supposed to do?
“They want to play. The precautions are in place. And the science says it’s safe. Seems to me it’s about time to let our kids play sports again.
“Gov. Whitmer, let them play.”