Mich. Gov. Whitmer: Student, Amateur Athletes Must Wear Masks While Playing Sports – But, Pro Sports Exempt

By Craig Bannister | September 10, 2020 | 9:47am EDT
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer
(Getty Images)

On Wednesday, Democrat Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer issued an executive order requiring all organized-sport athletes competing in sports like football and soccer to wear coronavirus masks while playing. But, professional athletes are exempt from having to wear masks during games, the governor says, clearing the way players on teams like the NFL’s Detroit Lions to compete without the encumbrance.

Whitmer’s Executive Order 180 amends last week’s Executive Order 176 and addresses sports where players cannot maintain six feet of social distancing from one another. Face coverings must also be worn while training and during practices, local station WLUC reports:

Governor Whitmer signed Executive Order 2020-180 on Wednesday, clarifying the rules on face coverings for organized sports during training, practice and competition.

According to a press release from the Michigan Executive Office of the Governor, this executive order specifies that a face covering must by worn at all times by athletes training for, practicing for, or competing in an organized sport when the athlete cannot maintain six feet of social distance, except for occasional and fleeting moments. Athletes are not required to wear a face covering if they are swimming. Athletes competing in football, soccer, or volleyball, for example, are not able to maintain six feet of social distance as required and therefore would need to wear a face covering.

Section 7(f) of Executive Order 176 suggests that professional sports are exempt, providing that they play to empty stadiums and comply with general safety mandates:

Notwithstanding any other provision of this order, professional sports leagues and teams, including professional athletes engaged in individual sports, may engage in professional sports operations, provided that:

1.       No live audiences are allowed, except for staff of the facility at which a sporting event is held and media personnel reporting on, filming, or otherwise documenting the sporting event;

2.       The activities are conducted pursuant to a COVID-19 safety plan that is consistent with any guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services; and

3.       Participants maintain six feet of distance from one another to the extent compatible with the sporting activity.

The Detroit Free Press reports that it has confirmed with Go. Whitmer’s office that professional athletes are exempt from the mask-while-playing mandate :

This order does not apply to pro sports, though. 

According to a governor's spokesperson, teams like the Lions don't have "to operate nothwithstanding any other provision of the order as long as they do so subject to a CDC compliant safety plan and without live audiences."

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