Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom of California is being sued by a group of Southern Californian high school student-athletes over the state’s ban on indoor youth sports.
While fans enjoy collegiate basketball games and other sports in states across the country — including in California where the San Diego State Aztecs men’s basketball team is currently ranked in the Associated Press’ top 25 list — Golden State high school athletes are being robbed of valuable time to compete.
A “risk” guidance on youth sports from the California Department of Public Health lays out a seemingly endless number of reasons why kids are not allowed to participate in indoor competitions.
“In general, the more people from outside their household with whom a person interacts, the closer the physical interaction is, the greater the physical exertion is, and the longer the interaction lasts, the higher the risk that a person with COVID-19 infection may spread it to others,” the state health department guidance reads.
“Youth and adult sports include varied activities that have different levels of risk for transmission of COVID-19. Outdoor activities present significantly lower risk of transmission relative to comparative indoor activities, based on current scientific evidence. Competition between different teams also increases mixing across groups and outside of communities, which also contributes to the potential for spread of COVID-19 disease.”
The guidance adds that the rules do not apply “to collegiate or professional sports,” but it doesn’t explicitly state why. Of course, the state’s four NBA teams — the Los Angeles Lakers, the Los Angeles Clippers, the Golden State Warriors and the Sacramento Kings — are in the midst of playing a full season.
In Orange County, high school athletes are fed up with asking why athletes at higher levels can compete, and have moved on to suing the health department and Newsom to restore their ability to play.
A suit was filed on Monday, KTTV-TV reported, and it argues that Newsom is violating equal protection laws by allowing revenue-generating professional and college sports teams to operate while keeping younger people sidelined.
KTTV reported that high school junior and basketball player Caleb Graham and sophomore volleyball player Elodie Danet are both plaintiffs in the suit against Newsom and the state. Danet told KTTV that seeing professional and college teams play while her team sits the season out is frustrating.
“I’ve been watching college volleyball for a while now and it’s frustrating seeing them play cause we’re not able to,” Danet said. “We’re not able to play the season and have the experience needed for college.”
Graham told the outlet he, too, is tired of watching others undermine his future.
”It’s been a little bit annoying considering I’ve been working hard all this quarantine and then we just keep getting canceled, it’s just frustrating,” Graham told the outlet.
KTTV reported that in addition to the lawsuit, Caleb’s father, a man named Brad Graham, is part of a movement called “Let Them Play.” The elder Graham said youth indoor sports are banned in California for no discernible reason.
“They can’t say that it’s OK for college to play and not OK for the high school kids to play,” he said. “The time to move forward is now, there’s not a huge risk to these kids, especially if we follow the same protocols that colleges and pros follow.”
Fed up with the unevenly applied policy on indoor sports, the aggrieved and their parents sought out a legal partner to sue Newsom and the state. The firm Wingert Grebing Burbaker & Juskie, LLP, is representing the plaintiffs in their lawsuit.
KTTV reported the firm recently scored a big victory in San Diego County, where youth sports are restored for now. The firm says it will attempt to help struggling Orange County student-athletes — and eventually those across the state.
“We plan to spread this victory throughout California,” attorney Stephen Grebing told KTTV.
“In addition to Orange County today, we hope to file lawsuits in Santa Clara, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, Riverside, San Bernardino, and other counties this week and next, to ensure that all youths, girls and boys, have the same right to play sports, indoor and outdoor, as college athletes and professional athletes do.”
Newsom has not publicly responded to the lawsuit or the controversy. The governor currently faces the growing prospect of a recall election in the coming months as more and more Californians appear to be growing impatient with the state’s unevenly applied public mandates.
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