Let Them Play MN has sued Gov. Tim Walz and state officials seeking to repeal the state's mandate requiring high school and youth athletes to wear masks during practices and games.

The suit, filed Friday in U.S. District Court, alleges that the state has refused to show data backing its mask mandate. A news release from Let Them Play MN, which has been vocal in support of getting kids back to playing sports, said young athletes are being singled out "for disfavor and unnecessary restrictions'' that it claims are illegal and unfair. Let Them Play MN was founded in August and has about 25,000 Facebook members.

The mask requirement was announced on Dec. 28, coming after state officials said high school and youth sports could return to practice on Jan. 4. Walz had put youth sports on hold in mid-November amid a spike in COVID-19 cases fueled by community transmission of the virus.

The suit claims that Walz and state officials have "singled out youth athletes — restricting their liberty and ignoring their health — as a political sacrifice without support in their own data, sound science or any rational basis.'' The lawsuit includes accounts from unnamed athletes and coaches who have experienced problems using masks during athletic activity.

Some other states, including Michigan and Massachusetts, have restarted youth sports while requiring masks. Minnesota sports groups reached out to their counterparts and national associations and found that while it may take some time for kids to adjust, most adapted quickly with few problems.

"Minnesota sports associations were involved in the decision to implement the mask policy,'' said Nicholas Kimball, communications director for the state's COVID-19 response. "As with any situation, if someone is having difficulty while wearing a mask, they should take it off."

High school games will resume starting Jan. 14.