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Over 1,000 Big Ten Football Players Want to be Heard, Call for COVID-19 Protocols

Photo by: Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

Just days after the Pac-12 Football Unity group put out a list of demands and requests of the conference, over 1,000 Big Ten football players are calling out the NCAA.

The Big Ten players penned a letter on The Player’s Tribune to express their concerns with the help of College Athlete Unity (CAU). CAU says they represent athletes from 23 different varsity sports across “every major conference” and each NCAA division, the NAIA and U Sport (in Canada).

Given that the players are the primary stakeholders in the business of college sports, we believe any course of action moving forward needs to include player input. We are deeply disappointed with the lack of leadership demonstrated by the NCAA with respect to player safety during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The letter also takes a real shot at the NCAA’s lack of preparedness for the current situations.

The NCAA — which is known for its zeal for regulations and enforcement — has had ample time to prepare for the safe return of its athletes to competition, yet it has done nothing. Its laissez-faire approach is forcing each conference and each school to create its own plan, resulting in inconsistent policies, procedures and protocols.

When criticism comes, people always say “well, what do you suggest?” The players have a ton of ideas.

First, a third-party to administer coronavirus testing and “enforce all COVID-19 health and safety standards.” Also, they want penalties for non-compliance and a mandate for personnel to “report suspected violations.”

Next, the players want prevention and safety protocols, including up-to-date information on COVID-19 risks.

Another idea is for standard cleaning protocols for facilities, jerseys and visiting locker rooms. Also, temperature checks for everyone entering an athletic facility combined with social distancing and mask-wearing “in and around facilities”.

Third, the Big Ten players list a desire for testing, contact tracing and other related procedures. Examples include in-season testing three times a week, “objective criteria for shutting down the season” if things get worse with the pandemic, and quarantine rules for the athletes and protocols for players returning to practice.

Also, they want to have some serious assurances.

  • Whistleblower protections for athletics personnel and college athletes reporting a suspected violation
  • Ban the use of COVID-19 liability waivers
  •  Automatic medical redshirt for any player who misses any competitions due to a positive test or a mandatory quarantine due to contact tracing
  • Preserve athletic eligibility, scholarship, and roster spot for any player who opts out of athletic participation or is unable to play more than 40% of their scheduled season due to COVID-19 or season postponement/cancellation
  • Complimentary access to the Big Ten Network for athletes’ family members

Finally, “hazard-related economic support” is the final section of the letter. The players want coverage “for all out-of-pocket medical expenses related to COVID-19 (both short-term and long-term) incurred by active college athletes”. Also, they requested scholarship protection in the event the season is canceled.

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