As the winter season finally nears for some Section 6 sports — but notably not for basketball, wrestling and hockey — a group of parents based in Western New York is preparing a legal challenge to the state’s restrictions on high school athletics.
Dave Mansell, a Lancaster assistant football coach, confirmed what several social media posts this week suggested, that a group of parents have retained HoganWillig Law Firm to file a lawsuit against the state. He said the law firm asked these parents not to speak with the media until the suit is filed, but confirmed they will argue against the state’s contention that certain sports are a high risk of spreading coronavirus and highlight the mental and social effects of the shutdown on young athletes.
New York has only allowed what the Department of Health describes as “low- and moderate-risk” sports thus far, forcing the postponement of football, volleyball and competitive cheerleading from the fall to the spring. As high-risk sports still await clearance from the state, winter seasons including basketball, wrestling and ice hockey have been postponed indefinitely.
An online petition supporting the suit had more than 400 names of parents, coaches or other individuals as of Wednesday and 15 athletes, who are age 18 or older.
— Also this week, Section 6 confirmed its plans to start low and moderate sports on Jan. 18. This includes bowling, boys swimming and diving, rifle and alpine skiing. The section already canceled its winter indoor track and field season citing constraints on time and available meet locations.
“We are excited to begin the winter season for the five low to moderate risk sports,” Section 6 President Brett Banker said in a press release after the executive committee reconfirmed plans to start on Monday. “We are very excited for our athletes, coaches and families. Athletes across our region will be able to return to something that is so important to them.”
Banker also indicated the section is ready to resume other sports if the state allows.
“We welcome and are ready to begin High Risk sports as soon as we receive approval from Albany,” Banker said. “Members of the Executive Committee are confident that member schools, athletic directors, coaches and athletic trainers can provide the same safe and nurturing experiences that we did in the highly successful fall season.”
The section’s executive committee also voted to not allow spectators at bowling, swimming and rifle contests until further notice, “out of support for local health officials and school leaders.”