by Kimberly Sampson

Lt. Governor Brian Calley and House Speaker Kevin Cotter play a Unified basketball game on November 6, 2015.

Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley and House Speaker Kevin Cotter traded their suits for basketball jerseys on Friday, November 6 at Central Michigan University. The politicians played a Unified basketball game alongside Special Olympics Michigan athletes and college students from their alma maters. Calley, a Michigan State University alumnus, played on the Spartans team while Cotter proudly sported Central Michigan University maroon and gold.

Both teams were made up of Special Olympics Michigan athletes and college students who are involved with the SO College programs at CMU and MSU. SO College connects college students and individuals with intellectual disabilities through sport to build friendships and help lead the social justice movement of Special Olympics.

Lt. Governor Calley and Speaker Cotter are avid supporters of Special Olympics and people with intellectual disabilities. In March of 2014, Lt. Governor Calley signed legislation to remove the terms "mentally retarded" and "mental retardation" from state statutes. Lt. Governor Calley and Speaker Cotter have also braved the cold and taken part in the annual Polar Plunge on the Capitol Steps every year since 2012. Calley and Cotter were given the choice to either coach their team, or join in the fun and play. Without hesitation, they chose to get in the action and show off their basketball skills.

"We're trying not to just be supportive, but to be a good role model," said Calley.

Central Michigan University was the first to score, but Michigan State quickly answered. The teams were a good match. Even with a minute and a half left on the clock, it was a three-point game. The Chippewas pulled through and won with a score of 28 to 21.

"One of the things that I love about what a Unified team shows is that this is still real competition, and the athletes are still taking it very seriously," said Calley. "They're competing and playing to win. It's about busting the stereotypes."

Calley and Cotter were able to join the bond and friendships that Unified sports bring to many Special Olympics athletes not only at their universities, but across the nation.

"It's wonderful how they support us, and how they take time away from their busy schedules to come play with us," said Special Olympics Athlete Ryan Stremlow, 29.

To learn more about SO College and Unified Sports programs, visit SOMI.org.