A Warren County Court judge ruled on Thursday against the director of the Ohio Department of Health Lance D. Himes injunction on contact sports.
The order allowed non-contact sports to re-open for their normal seasons, as long as certain precautions are followed. Contact sports, however, including football, basketball, wrestling, boxing, martial arts, and soccer would have been required to test players for COVID-19 several times per sporting event. Students would be required to test negative within 72 hours of a game, again during any tournament lasting more than three days, and every two days after that should the tournament last longer.
Judge Timothy N. Tepe said in his decision the order as applied was “facially unconstitutional” as it failed to “provide procedural due process” as well as “equal protection under the law.” The decision went on to say that the order violated “the doctrine of separation of powers” and delegated “unbridled and vague power to unelected officials.”
Tepe, who according to his bio, has experience working with several youth sports organizations, including the Lebanon Warrior Youth Football League and The Gem City Youth Conference, rejected the separation between contact and non-contact sports in the order was meaningful.
“Mr. Himes has instituted different operating guidelines to govern two groups of similarly situated individuals,” Tepe wrote in his 14-page decision.
The ruling names two organizations as exempt from Himes’s original order, Southwestern Ohio Basketball Inc. and Kingdom Sports Center Inc. However, nothing in the decision seems to prohibit other organizations from benefiting from it. While the decision only extends to businesses inside Warren County, it’s being viewed as a big win by many.
Alex Meacham, the president of Shining Star Sports said, “We can have a bracket format tournament with an actual champion… that’s good for the kids… this is big for our kids” in an interview, according to WLWT.
Thomas Sunderman, co-founder of Southern Ohio Basketball Inc. was excited about the win but believed it didn’t go far enough. On the company’s website, Sunderman said, “Although we won this step, we still have steps to take.”
On a GoFundMe campaign to help cover the cost of litigation, Sunderman said the lawsuit would “have a substantial impact on the entire state, and will pave the way to open ALL high school and youth sports if successful.”