Lawsuit challenges Pritzker’s plan to delay some high school sports due to coronavirus concerns

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KENWOOD — Illinois high school athletes are once again pleading with Governor JB Pritzker to reverse his decision and allow all fall sports to play Sunday, as athletes and attorneys announced a class-action lawsuit aimed at forcing the governor’s hand.  

High school athletes held demonstrations in front of the homes of Pritzker and Deputy Governor Jesse Ruiz Sunday Sunday evening, seeing this week as a critical point in the effort to rescue the fall sports season by early October. 

“I play soccer and volleyball and both seasons are being taken away from me; and there’s nothing that I do other than just sit at my house and hope for us to get a season back,” athlete Lizbeth Berajas said.

As it stands now, the fall sports seasons were shifted to winter and spring, meaning the high school football season will be played from February to March unless the governor changes his mind.  

The sounds of most school sports have been silenced in Illinois this fall since Pritzker decided their risk of spreading COVID-19 is too high for high school athletes in high contact sports.

“I just don’t think this is something we should allow right now because it’s dangerous,” Pritzker said. 

But as fields of play sit empty, some parents, athletes and coaches plan to take their arguments to the courtroom.

“Families and student athletes are at the point where they’re going to have to take this to litigation to try to get some common sense,” said student athlete advocate Joe Trost.

Parents, students and athletes’ advocates plan to file a class action lawsuit against the Illinois High School Association on Monday arguing the group didn’t follow its own rules in shifting seasons, which require a vote of the member schools.  

“We’re asking them to follow their own bylaws, the IHSA, they didn’t follow their own bylaws,” Trost said.

The announcement of the lawsuit came Sunday morning across the street from Pritzker’s Gold Coast mansion, where students spoke out, hoping to pressure the governor into reversing his decision,

“Coming from a low-income neighborhood it is very vital for us to have those scholarships and to get that scholarship money to pay for college,” said high school athlete Joel Estrada.

At a series of rallies across the state over the past few weeks, student-athletes have begged the governor to “let us play,” while parents and coaches say they’re ready for seasons to resume.

“Why are these other state’s able to do it and we can’t do it in Illinois?” Trost said.

But the governor has said time-and-again he will not be swayed by decisions in other states, he says he will follow the advice of scientists and public health officials.  

“Decisions are being made state by state as you know – and we’ve seen bad decisions being made that have led to significant health consequences,” Pritzker said.

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