Big Ten Players Covid
Opponents on Saturdays, teammates today. Big Ten Football Players unite together to highlight safety concerns regarding Covid-19. (David Guralnick/Detroit News)

The NCAA has been using the names of college athletes and their talents to generate revenue while providing athletes an education. The athletes also sign away their ability to profit off their name and likeness while in college. The student athletes can’t get paid by the school or anyone else and there are multiple rules and regulations for players that at times don’t make sense. Yet, the NCAA have dragged their feet when it comes to safety procedures for the upcoming College Football Season.

Big Ten Players recently published a list of demands, it was published by The Players’ Tribune on Wednesday and written by “Players of the Big Ten.” According to the players tribune, this is part of what was said:

While we appreciate the Big Ten’s recently announced plan for the upcoming season, we believe that the conference’s proposal falls short in certain areas. 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. We believe that the NCAA must — on its own and through collaboration with the conference — devise a comprehensive plan to ensure the safety and well-being of players leading up to and during the upcoming fall season.

The players are not satisfied with the Big Ten’s proposal and I don’t blame them. The NCAA is leaving it to the individual conferences which creates multiple issues. It’s like leaving individual states to have their own individual protocol, look how that worked out. The players clearly want a unified plan across the NCAA as a whole so there is a universal standard that must be met across all conferences and schools. The players are also calling out the NCAA for their enforcement on their own rules and dragging their feet when it came to planning for Covid-19:

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.

The players are also asking to have input on the protocols and they absolutely deserve it. The players are what drive income for the NCAA and they see none of that money, at the very least they deserve a say in how procedures and protocols are handled and enforced for Covid-19.

Given that the NCAA and conference leadership have not asked for our input, we feel compelled to call for clarity, commitment, and action regarding our common-sense proposal below.

We have started a dialogue in good faith with the Big Ten and hope that the NCAA will follow suit. Given the short time frame, and with our season at stake, this conversation must happen now.

Below are the demands of the players, all of which are reasonable, according to the Players Tribune:

Protecting the Well-Being of All Athletes

Oversight and Transparency

  • Third-party, approved by players, to administer COVID testing and to enforce all COVID-19 health and safety standards
  • Sufficient penalties for noncompliance
  • Mandate for athletics personnel to report suspected violations

Prevention and Safety Protocols

  • Ensure all athletes have up-to-date information about the risks that COVID-19 may pose to their personal health, the health of their families and the health of their communities
  • Adherence to WHO and CDC guidance for sporting events and compliance with all federal, state, and local statutes and regulations
  • Safety standards that are appropriate for each sport
  • Social distancing requirements and mandatory mask-wearing in and around athletic facilities by coaches, staff, players, vendors, press, and visitors
  • Minimum cleaning and sanitation protocols for all uniforms, equipment, and athletic facilities, including visitor locker rooms
  • Temperature checks for anyone entering any athletic facility

Testing, Contact Tracing and Related Procedures

  • Contact-tracing protocols for anyone who comes into contact with college athletes and team personnel who test positive
  • Testing of everyone who comes into contact with college athletes, including coaches, trainers, medical staff, nutrition staff, referees, media, etc.
  • In-season testing of all of the above three days per week
    • Testing twice per week with an FDA-approved test with less than 1% false negatives
    • Additionally, testing on the day of competition (or within 24 hours of competition for each team that can be quarantined) with an FDA-approved test with less than 5% false negatives, with results delivered at least two hours before competition
  • Immediate quarantine of any person who tests positive or exhibits symptoms
  • Quarantine rules for college athletes who test positive, and protocols for their return to practice and competition
  • Objective criteria for shutting down seasons should the pandemic take a turn for the worse or if teams experience significant outbreaks

Player 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

Hazard-Related Economic Support

  • Coverage for all out-of-pocket medical expenses related to COVID-19 (both short-term and long-term) incurred by active college athletes
  • Scholarship protections (including room, board and stipend) in the event that the season is canceled due to COVID-19
  • An adjustment to the cost-of-living stipend to account for the increase in personal expenses related to limited access that players have to facilities
  • Reimbursement for stipends that were reduced during the summer

I agree with the players 100%. I understand that they are not comfortable without a unified protocol throughout the NCAA and I understand their frustration with the NCAA for dragging their feet on this issue. This upcoming weekend I was supposed to participate in a football event that was postponed due to Covid-19 and I have opted out. There is no vaccine for the virus and by going I am not only endangering myself but my loved ones. Endangering my loved ones is not something I am willing to do and the players should not have their scholarships revoked, removed or violated in any capacity if they choose to opt out of the season. If they are not comfortable participating, they should not need to participate. It is the fault of the NCAA for players not feeling safe.

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