Update: Shortly after publishing, the University of Michigan released an official stay-at-home recommendation through February 7th
On Saturday we reported about the University of Michigan’s move to stop all athletic-related activities for two weeks. Since then, a “Coalition of Student-Athletes” have issued a letter to the University asking to reconsider this move; an online petition has been created as well.
In the letter the athletes recognize the severity and seriousness of the situation [5 confirmed cases of the new B.1.1.7 coronavirus strain] and question why this decision is coming from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services rather than the university itself. The athletes recognize that they have done everything they can in order to prevent the spread of the virus. They offer solutions such as addressing the cases on a team-by-team basis and state that putting healthy students in further quarantine is unnecessary and unfair. The coalition suggests that this decision will affect both the physical and mental health of the student-athletes.
Since the coronavirus pandemic began in 2020, there has been a trend of student-athletes and parents putting pressure on schools and conferences to reexamine decisions regarding the coronavirus. The Big Ten initially canceled their fall football season in August. The conference reversed course in September amid outcry from parents and athletes. The conference determined that they could proceed with the football season while conducting testing and monitoring student health in a proper and safe way.
Several members of the Michigan swimming & diving team shared both the open letter and petition on social media, highlighted by Head Coach Mike Bottom and World Champion swimmer Maggie MacNeil. Additionally, an individual signed the name “Mike Bottom” to the online petition and commented about the situation:
“The student athletes test ever [sic] day or every other day. They are clear and yet still quarantine. Not only are they not able to pursue their sports but not able to walk free to pursue their academic goals…. How is this not a violation of their civil rights?”
Due to the shutdown imposed on Michigan athletics, the men’s and women’s swimming & diving teams have had to cancel their meets on Saturday against Big Ten rival Ohio State. Women’s Water Polo was scheduled to travel to Arizona State next week for a four-day slate and that trip has since been canceled.
Both the women’s Big Ten Swimming Championship and the women’s Big Ten Diving Championship are scheduled to start on February 24th. Assuming no change in Michigan’s decision, the women’s swimming & diving team will be able to return to the water on February 8, giving the team a little over two weeks of pool training before the Big Ten meet.
The student-athletes at the University of Michigan recognize the severity of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and have done everything in our control to prevent the spread of this virus to the best of our ability. Recently, 5 confirmed cases of the B.1.1.7 strain have been found in the athletic department, which has triggered a shutdown of all athletic-related activity and the closure of all athletic facilities by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services in conjunction with the Washtenaw County Health Department. While we, the student-athletes at the University of Michigan, understand the severity of this virus and take it very seriously, we believe that this mandate from the MDHHS is unnecessary and should not only be reconsidered, but overturned.
We trust the guidance and leadership of those in charge of the health and safety of Michigan student-athletes. Given the University’s knowledge of the situation surrounding the athletic department, should a total shutdown have been necessary, it should have come from the University of Michigan leaders. Being members of both the Ann Arbor and Washtenaw County communities is something that the student-athletes at the University of Michigan value and cherish. We have done everything to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 to the greater community at large, in order to protect those who support us. The student-athletes at the University of Michigan have done their best to create social bubbles in order to limit exposure and have opted in for extensive testing protocols in order to compete in the safest manner possible. The physical and mental health of every Michigan student-athlete is at risk due to the recent mandate set in place.
Based on the department’s testing policies, placing healthy students in quarantine is unnecessary and excessive. Placing the entirety of student-athletes in a mandated quarantine, instead of working it on a team by team basis, is unfair to the athletes who have followed all protocols necessary to compete and have had no contact with the confirmed cases. These student-athletes have gone above and beyond in order to earn the right to have a season in the midst of a pandemic. We believe that it is simply illogical to mandate a quarantine for the student-athletes given that at this point there are no extra recommended mitigation strategies outside of what athletes have already been in compliance with (masking up, social distancing, inner bubbles, etc.). The student-athletes at the University of Michigan stand united in preventing the spread of COVID-19 and keeping every member of our community safe. We are asking the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services to reconsider the blanket shutdown implemented on January 24th, and allow all the student-athletes that are healthy to return to all athletic-related activities.
Sincerely and Respectfully,
Coalition of Student-Athletes