Ruling to come Friday in Chatfield star's suspension appeal

In its 30-page filing, the MSHSL asked the courts to deny the request for a restraining order stating that "simply because Plaintiff disagrees with the referee’s and, in turn, the League’s decision, does not, however, render it arbitrary and capricious.”

Chatfield quarterback Sam Backer (21) passes the ball during a Class AA football state semifinal game against Barnesville on Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021, at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin
Traci Westcott

A resolution is expected by 10 a.m. Friday in a lawsuit that challenges a Minnesota sports official's ruling on the field.

A hearing was held Wednesday before Judge Ann D. Montgomery on a Chatfield star player's request for a temporary restraining order that would lift his suspension from a state championship football game that begins at 1 p.m. Friday.

Attorney Charles Maier, who represents the quarterback and his family, said in an email to the Post Bulletin that the matter was taken under advisement and a ruling would be issued by 10 am. Friday.

The suit was brought by the quarterback for Chatfield High School, who is suspended from Friday's state football championship game because he had two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties in the last game. The player's attorney argues that the player, Sam Backer, is being denied his right to an education by the suspension.

The Minnesota State High School League responded to the challenge, arguing in writing that the court should deny the request for a temporary restraining order as the lawsuit "seeks to have the judiciary rewrite MSHSL bylaws to require the MSHSL to allow students, parents, and/or coaches to challenge, in court, the on the field discretionary decisions of contest officials."


The 30-page response was filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court by the nonprofit's attorneys, Joseph A. Kelly and Kevin M. Beck.

“Plaintiff, unhappy with the referee’s decisions on the field, now asks this Court to step into the shoes of the contest official and the MSHSL by issuing the extraordinary remedy of a TRO (temporary restraining order)," the filing reads. “Simply because Plaintiff disagrees with the referee’s and, in turn, the League’s decision, does not, however, render it arbitrary and capricious.”

RELATED: Family of Chatfield QB files lawsuit seeking to overturn suspension The family of Chatfield's varsity quarterback is seeking to overturn a suspension so that he may play in the Class AA state football championship game on Friday in Minneapolis.
The lawsuit was filed Tuesday on behalf of S.B., a minor child, through his parents. The family is identified in court documents by their initials, but the lawsuit states that S.B. "is the starting quarterback for the Chatfield Varsity Football Team." Sam Backer is the team's starting quarterback.

Backer, a junior, was ejected in the third quarter of the Class AA state semifinal football game on Thursday, Nov. 18, against Barnesville for accumulating two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties in the game.

The lawsuit seeks a temporary restraining order to lift the mandatory one-game suspension imposed following Backer’s ejection from the game. Chatfield is scheduled to compete in Friday's Class AA Prep Bowl, the state championship game, against West Central Area/Ashby.

Chatfield High School has not objected to the officials' decision.

"The Student received two unsportsmanlike conduct fouls and we agree that he should not play," Chatfield High School’s activities director, principal and superintendent stated in correspondence with MSHSL's executive director, according to court documents.

In its response, the MSHSL argues that its bylaws only allow for a narrow appeal of its penalties. That narrow exception “applies to basketball coaches because they are held responsible for the conduct of their bench irrespective of their personal behavior,” the filing reads.


“When an official ejects a coach or student from a contest, they review the decision with the entire officiating team both at the time that the penalty is called and informally following the game to ensure it has been appropriately identified,” the filing reads.

MSHSL bylaws state that protests against the decision of contest officials will not be honored.

The denial, MSHSL argues, is supported by public policy for two reasons.

“First, denial would serve to prevent wasting judicial resources by discouraging future litigation of similar matters,” the filing reads. “Second, denial keeps the realms of the courts and high school sports comfortably separate and avoids hampering the spirit of high school competition with the specter of litigation."

Emily Cutts is the Post Bulletin's public safety reporter. She joined the Post Bulletin in July 2018 after stints in Vermont and Western Massachusetts.
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