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Newsom sued by California students over indoor high school sports restrictions

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A group of high school athletes in California filed a lawsuit against Gov. Gavin Newsom Monday to challenge his ban on indoor youth sports during the coronavirus pandemic. 

The group of five athletes, — a basketball player, a wrestler, a cheerleader, and two volleyball players — jointly filed for a temporary restraining order, with the support of their parents and guardians, in Orange County Superior Court.

The lawsuit argues that under the equal protection clause of the 14th amendment, youth sports have been treated unfairly because collegiate and professional indoor sports in the state have been allowed to play, according to FOX 11 of Los Angeles. 

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California Gov. Gavin Newsom outlines his 2021-2022 state budget proposal during a news conference in Sacramento, Calif on Jan. 8, 2021. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, Pool, File)

California Gov. Gavin Newsom outlines his 2021-2022 state budget proposal during a news conference in Sacramento, Calif on Jan. 8, 2021. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, Pool, File)

“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,” said Caleb Graham, a junior who plays for the Canyon High School basketball team in Anaheim.

“I’ve been watching college volleyball for a while now and it’s frustrating seeing them play cause we’re not able to,” added Elodie Danet, a sophomore volleyball player at El Modena High School in Orange. “We’re not able to play the season and have the experience needed for college.”

Brad Graham, Caleb’s father — who is part of the grassroots advocacy group Let Them Play CA — says Newsom has no medical evidence to justify banning youth sports while professional and collegiate sports are allowed to continue.

“They can’t say that it’s OK for college to play and not OK for the high school kids to play,” Brad Graham said, according to the station. “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.”

High school athletes are currently prohibited from playing indoors unless a county reaches the yellow tier (minimal risk), according to the Orange County Register.

California recently updated its guideline to allow for competition of outdoor, high-contact sports — citing improved health conditions and concern for mental health. Those types of sports are allowed in purple and red tiers counties that have “an adjusted case rate equal to or less than 14 per 100,000” residents.

In a state that has more than 800,000 student-athletes, high school sports officials have said that COVID-19 testing would be too expensive.

Ken Elliott, a spokesperson for Let Them Play CA, said the group could overcome those obstacles.

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“If they tell us what they need from us from a testing perspective to get back out on the field, we believe we have the backing and resources to get that done very quickly, and very inexpensively,” he said earlier this year, according to the paper. 

The athletes are being represented by the law firm Wingert Grebing Brubaker & Juskie, LLP, which recently won a similar temporary restraining order against Newsom over the state’s limits on youth sports in San Diego County, FOX 11 reported.

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“We plan to spread this victory throughout California,” said Stephen Grebing of the law firm. “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.”

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