Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Big Ten football players form unity group, lay out demands to play amid pandemic

On the same day the Big Ten Conference announced its league-only schedule for a football season planned to begin amid the coronavirus pandemic, players from the conference published a list of demands regarding safe training and return-to-play protocols for a campaign unlike any they've experienced.

In The Players' Tribune, a group using the #BigTenUnited title wrote:

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 continued: 

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.

The Big Ten players are asking that a third-party approved by the athletes handle all coronavirus testing and the enforcement of safety guidelines, that those who don't comply with the protocols face "sufficient penalties," and that student-athletes and staff members who report any violations receive whistleblower protections.

On Tuesday, Miles Blumhardt of the Fort Collins Coloradoan reported that at least 10 Colorado State football players and staff say the program has been involved in a COVID-19 cover-up meant to keep players on practice fields. 

The Big Ten players added that they don't want to sign any COVID-19 waivers, and that universities must ensure scholarships and athletic eligibility be preserved for both those who are medically unable to play and those who don't wish to participate in the season. Furthermore, the players want automatic redshirts available for anyone who misses games due to returning a positive coronavirus test or because of any mandatory quarantine periods. 

They're also asking that all out-of-pocket medical expenses related to the coronavirus, both short-term and long-term, be covered. 

The Players' Tribune piece includes the full list of demands.

Pac-12 players previously formed a similar unity group that also generated a list of requests and demands. 

Big Ten football programs may begin seasons over the weekend of Sept. 3-5, but those dates could be pushed back if necessary. 

Zac Wassink is a football and futbol aficionado who is a PFWA member and is probably yelling about Tottenham Hotspur at the moment. Erik Lamela and Eli Manning apologist. Chanted for Matt Harvey to start the ninth inning of Game 5 of the 2015 World Series at Citi Field. Whoops. You can find him on Twitter at @ZacWassink

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