Despite recommendations from the World Health Organization that people should not wear a mask when exercising, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer decided that in order for football (which had been previously pushed for the spring) and other sports to be played in the Mitten State this fall, masks would have to be worn at all times.

The latest executive order from Governor Whitmer reads in part:

“…athletes training for, practicing for, or competing in an organized sport must wear a facial covering (except when swimming) or consistently maintain 6 feet of social distance (except for occasional and fleeting moments). For example, an athlete participating in a football, soccer, or volleyball game would not be able to consistently maintain 6 feet of distance, and therefore would need to wear a facial covering. Sports organizers must ensure that athletes comply with this section for each organized sporting event.”

While most sports are requiring masks on players and coaches on the sideline, Michigan is currently the only state requiring masks be worn by players on the field of play.

Previous executive orders from the Governor’s office have specified “interscholastic athletics,” but as you can see from the wording above, this one has no such language. Yet the Lions were able to up a 17-point fourth quarter lead at home INDOORS this weekend to the Bears without players on the field masking up during play.

I cannot explain how many texts I got over the weekend asking why the rules only apply to high school and college athletes, and no one seems to have a logical answer for that question.

With talk of a Big Ten vote to return to play this October heating up today, I found myself wondering recently if Michigan and Michigan State players would also be required to wear masks of some kind if their season gets reinstated.

Furthermore, would visiting teams from the Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and the rest of the Big Ten football also be required to mask up to play within Michigan’s borders? Would that provide an unfair competitive advantage to Michigan schools who welcome other teams in that have probably only worn a mask for the week of prep leading up to the game?

Or, on the flip side of the coin, will Michigan’s unique stance by state leaders requiring players to wear a mask during play be just another reason for the programs in East Lansing and Ann Arbor to decide not to play?

The other option is Governor Whitmer reverses course, and follows the lead of other states playing this fall, requiring masks on the sidelines, but not on the field during competition.

To me, and a lot of other coaches, these are some big questions that need answered.

If the optimism about the Big Ten’s October restart are accurate, there will be some interesting conversations that take place between the governor’s office, the Big Ten, and leadership at Michigan and Michigan State about the state’s mask requirement.


Update> Governor Whitmer’s spokesperson stated today “it may be fitting to treat the Big Ten more like professional sports – as they are very stringent and there are very clear rules and guidance in place”. Meaning, high school teams will have to have all players wear masks when playing football; but college and NFL teams will not.