College football teams across the country are trying to navigate how to return to action during the coronavirus pandemic, and one of the sport’s biggest names is taking some heat for its approach. According to ESPN, Ohio State football players and their families were asked to sign a COVID-19 risk waiver before arriving back on campus for voluntary workouts.
The “Buckeye Pledge,” obtained by ESPN and other media outlets, asks players to “help stop the spread of the COVID-19” and accept “I may be exposed to COVID-19 and other infections.” By signing the two-page electronic pledge, players agree to testing and potential self-quarantining, monitoring for symptoms, reporting any potential exposure in a timely manner and to practice Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, such as wearing a mask and practicing social distancing.
The waiver states “any failure to comply with my Buckeye Pledge above may lead to immediate removal of athletic participation privileges (not my athletics scholarship) and/or the inability to use athletics facilities.”
Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith claims the waiver is intended to encourage responsibility when it comes to the virus, not minimize the university’s liability, but that’s a CYA move if I’ve ever seen one. It also really hammers home the hypocrisy of amateurism in that we’re not only asking players to risk their health by coming back and creating millions of dollars of revenue in exchange for a scholarship and a stipend, but we’re making them sign something so they won’t sue us.
Smith got the idea from Indiana athletic director Fred Glass, who created the “Participant Expectations and Commitment Pledge” for Hoosier football players and their families.
According to the waiver, the athletes and their parents “understand COVID-19 is a highly contagious virus and it is possible to develop and contract the COVID-19 disease, even if I follow all of the safety precautions above and those recommended by the CDC, local health department, and others. I understand that although the university is following the coronavirus guidelines issued by the CDC and other experts to reduce the spread of infection, I can never be completely shielded from all risk of illness caused by COVID-19 or other infections.”
Pledge is to waiver as student-athlete is to player, I guess.