Thousands of People Rally in Michigan Capitol to Call for Return of High School Sports

February 1, 2021 Updated: February 1, 2021

A small group of young athletes organized a rally in front of the Michigan Capitol building on Saturday, and it quickly evolved into a big protest with thousands of demonstrators. Some held signs urging Governor Gretchen Whitmer to let students play their winter high school sports season.

Due to COVID-19, Whitmer issued an order that bans contact sports until Feb. 21.

The protestors are hoping to raise public awareness about the order. Former NFL player Andre Rison spoke out in support of their efforts.

“I played basketball, football, I ran track,” Rison said through a video message. “I know how much sports means to our communities across the state of Michigan, and I know how much it means in a household, especially during these times. Sports can change a lot of things for the better.”

“It’s very important to me,” Ethan Dunn, a basketball player told Lansing State Journal. “It’s very painful for myself and everyone else, I’m sure—especially the seniors to have their season taken away like this and not have the opportunity. Some use it as a coping mechanism, others want to play at the collegiate level and others might not get a chance again to play this sport. It’s very important to me to come out here and show support.”

“I hope they see that there is enough people here that care about what we’re here to do and that they see (that) and change their mind,” said Cole Riedel, a wrestler.

“It’s awesome, it really shows you how many people are behind you and support what you’re doing,” Coady told Fox. “It’s a really great feeling too know this many people care about getting our season back.”

“It’s crazy, I didn’t think this many people would come,” said Mayen Woo, a basketball player. “It’s good that everyone is supporting us to play.”

In response to the rally, Michigan Department of Health and Public information officer Bob Wheaton released a statement:

“The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services will continue to make data-focused decisions that protect public health. While there is not a timeline to share, the department is having conversations with stakeholders including education, athletic, and grassroots groups on best practices and the safest steps forward related to resuming contact sports in the near future. MDHHS also remains laser focused on its goal of vaccinating at least 70 percent of Michiganders age 16 and up with the safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine as quickly as possible so we can end this pandemic and get back to a sense of normalcy.”