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Big Ten Football Players Publish ‘Common-Sense Proposal’, Make Demands For Season

A group of more than 1,000 Big Ten football student-athletes published a letter in The Players’ Tribune Wednesday calling on conference and NCAA leaders to develop specific plans and protocols that prioritize player safety.

The players, through College Athlete Unity (CAU), an organization that “seeks to empower collegiate athletes to use their platforms for change,” published a “unity proposal” asking leaders to take action to promote player safety before, during, and after the upcoming season.

“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,” the letter reads. “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.”

First, the players called for a a third-party organization, approved by players, to administer coronavirus testing and enforce protocols. They add non-compliance penalties should be implemented and athletics personnel should be required to report suspected violations.

Additionally, the Big Ten student-athletes requested programs adhere to federal guidance when planning for sporing evens and comply with federal, state, and local regulations. They also called for the development of safety standards for each respective sport, including social distancing requirements and enforced mask-wearing, sanitation of all uniforms, equipment, and facilities, and mandatory temperature checks for individuals entering athletics facilities.

“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,” the players wrote. “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’ testing demands closely align with the regulations put forth by the Big Ten so far. Like the conference’s plan, the players called for testing twice per week, the implementation of contact-tracing protocols, and isolation periods for anyone who tests positive, is symptomatic, or comes into contact with a known positive.

More importantly, the players asked the Big Ten to develop objective criteria for shutting down seasons “should the pandemic take a turn for the worse or if teams experience significant outbreaks.” To date, the conference hasn’t published any such plans.

The letter included demands that would specifically benefit student-athletes moving forward. These included whistleblower protections, banning the use of coroanvirus liaablity waivers, and providing complimentary access to the Big Ten Network for athletes’ family members.

Additionally, the players requested student-athletes be granted an automatic medical redshirt should they miss any competitions due to a positive test or mandatory quarantine. They also demanded the Big Ten preserve athletic eligibility, scholarships, and roster spots for those who opt out of the season due to the virus, which the conference has already committed to.

Finally, the players called for economic support during these difficult times. The requested all out-of-pocket medical expenses relating to the coronavirus be covered, all scholarships be protected should the season get canceled, and an adjustment to stipends due to an increase in personal expenses amid limited access to team facilities. The players also called for the reimbursement of stipends that were reduced earlier this summer.

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

Penn State Athletics did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the Big Ten players’ published letter or demands.

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About the Author

Matt DiSanto

Matt proudly served as Onward State’s managing editor for two years until graduating from Penn State with distinction in May 2022. Now, he’s off in the real world doing real things. Send him an email ([email protected]) or follow him on Twitter (@mattdisanto_) to stay in touch.

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