The Minnesota State High School League violated its own bylaws when its Board of Directors voted to move the football and volleyball seasons out of the fall season, according to motion filed Tuesday in Hennepin County District Court.
The motion seeks a temporary restraining order to revoke the changes the league made to its fall 2020 athletic seasons in a board meeting on Aug. 4.
Filed on behalf of three unnamed central Minnesota high school athletes, the motion contends that league rules state that such changes are the domain of the league's representative assembly, a legislative body of up to 48 people who represent its 16 administrative regions, and asks that the board of directors' ruling be set aside.
"We contend that the league's board didn't have the authority to take the action it did," said Sam Diehl, a partner with the Saul Ewing, Arnstein and Lehr law firm and the lead attorney on the suit. "We're not trying to dictate the results. Our stated objective is simply that we believe the league has not followed its own rules."
Diehl added that the motion is intended to aid all sports affected by the high school ruling. "Our plaintiffs play volleyball, football, basketball, baseball and golf," Diehl said. "This decision is not being sought for any one sport."
The motion is expected to go before a judge on Friday.
League attorney Kevin Beck said during a board member workshop Tuesday that "the board has the authority" to postpone a sports season without amending its bylaw through its representative assembly.
The filing comes amid recent public opposition to the league's decision to push football and volleyball to a new season in March because of COVID-19 concerns. Some states, including Louisiana and Michigan, have reversed their original stances on delaying the football season and have since moved forward with plans to resume play this fall.
Minnesota is the only state in the five-state area — which includes North and South Dakota, Iowa and Wisconsin — not currently playing football games and volleyball matches this fall. Twenty states have no fall football games this year. The league granted three-week practice periods for both sports that began on Monday.
On Saturday, a newly formed Facebook group called Let Them Play MN had more than 100 people turn out for a peaceful protest outside the governor's residence in St. Paul.
Site organizer Dawn Gillman said, since creating the site, support "has been unbelievable. We started it on Sept. 9 and since then we've been flooded with thousands of stories from families about what football means to them. It's good to feel the kids excited again."
Gillman said a petition on Change.org asking the league to rethink its decision has gained more than 17,000 signatures.
"It's exciting," she said. "I told my kids that this is modern-day social studies. People coming together in a gracious way, not politically motivated, with one common goal. We're showing we can do it and do it nicely."