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Big Ten football players demand better COVID-19 safety protocols in a letter to conference, NCAA

Lorenzo Reyes
USA TODAY

A letter representing more than 1,000 Big Ten college football players was published Wednesday to express concerns over the conference's protocols regarding return to play amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Published at The Players' Tribune through a collective called the College Athlete Unity (CAU), the players said the Big Ten's proposal "falls short in certain areas" and offered an alternative proposal instead.

"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 Wednesday. "Its laissez-faire approach is forcing each conference and each school to create its own plan, resulting in inconsistent policies, procedures and protocols."

Called the BIG TEN Unity Proposal, the plan outlined by the players seeks to implement guidelines in five different areas: oversight and transparency; prevention and safety protocols; testing, contact tracing and related procedures, player assurances and hazard-related economic support.

Big Ten football players are asking the NCAA and conference for more COVID safety protocols.

Among the requests are mandated in-season testing of three days per week, quarantine protocols for those infected, social distancing and mask-wearing requirements by coaches, staff, media and visitors, penalties for noncompliance, whistleblower protections, scholarship protections and coverage for all out-of-pocket medical expenses.

The letter came as the Big Ten announced Wednesday that it would launch a 10-game, conference-only season that will start Sept. 5.

MORE: Big Ten announces schedule of 10 conference games to start Sept. 5

PLAN TO PLAY: How each Power Five conferences is handling football schedules

“Developing consistent medical protocols and testing procedures for the health and safety of our student-athletes and our athletic programs is critical,” said Big Ten Conference Commissioner Kevin Warren said in a statement. “Our Task Force for Emerging Infectious Diseases and local, state, and national experts have provided guidelines throughout our decision-making process with our student athletes’ health and safety as our first and foremost concern.”

In the past week, two Big ten programs in Rutgers and Northwestern have halted their team workouts in the face of outbreaks of confirmed COVID-19 cases among players and coaches.

The CAU represents players from 23 different sports, across every major conference and across every NCAA division, the NAIA, and U Sports, the national governing body of university sport in Canada. The collective intends to give athletes a platform to speak out on issues of health and safety and social injustice.