On Aug. 11, the Big Ten Conference made a major announcement, one that has become very unpopular among players, parents, and fans. The conference announced that fall sports were being postponed because of health risks due to the pandemic. Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields started a petition this week to reinstate the season. A big-time attorney believes Fields’ actions could sway the Big Ten into rethinking its decision.
The Big Ten’s announcement
In a statement released Aug. 11, Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren said the decision to postpone the fall season was based on the health of its athletes. “The mental and physical health and welfare of our student-athletes has been at the center of every decision we have made regarding the ability to proceed forward,” said Warren.
“As time progressed and after hours of discussion with our Big Ten Task Force for Emerging Infectious Diseases and the Big Ten Sports Medicine Committee, it became abundantly clear that there was too much uncertainty regarding potential medical risks to allow our student-athletes to compete this fall.
“We know how significant the student-athlete experience can be in shaping the future of the talented young women and men who compete in the Big Ten Conference. Although that knowledge made this a painstaking decision, it did not make it difficult. While I know our decision today will be disappointing in many ways for our thousands of student-athletes and their families, I am heartened and inspired by their resilience, their insightful and discerning thoughts, and their participation through our conversations to this point. Everyone associated with the Big Ten Conference and its member institutions is committed to getting everyone back to competition as soon as it is safe to do so.”
Justin Fields takes action
In its statement, the Big Ten Conference said while no fall sports will take place, there could be a chance football and other sports could be moved to the spring. Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields took action. Fields started a petition asking the conference to play in the fall. He said he wanted players and teams to make their own decision on playing or opting out. According to ESPN, Fields’ petition had more than 250,000 signatures by Monday afternoon.
Fields was asked what his message to Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren and the conference would be. “My biggest message to them would just be to get them to realize how bad our players want to play and just the guys that are coming back for their fifth year, coming back off of injury, I think that we owe it to those guys the most,” Fields said. “I’ve just seen behind the scenes all the work that they’ve put in and how much they really care about it. And I honestly believe all the coaches and all the parents, players want us to play, and they all feel safe with the guidelines Ohio State has set.”
Ohio State center Josh Myers signed the petition and said he wants to get out there in the fall. “I felt like if we had a season, I would be safer than if we didn’t have a season, which might sound crazy to some people, but I do,” Myers said. “Everybody that I come into contact with, if we have a season, is getting tested twice a week, they’re in the cleanest of areas, and as a player on a team, you don’t want to be the guy that gets it because you were being a fool and you were out somewhere you shouldn’t be.”
Prominent attorney said Fields’ actions could be powerful
According to The Columbus Dispatch, attorney Tom Mars, who successfully represented Fields when he had the NCAA waive its rule for making players sit out a year after transferring from another school, thinks Fields has some clout. Mars believes Fields’ petition could potentially lead to a reversal by the Big Ten.
“I think (the petition) is going to matter a lot,” Mars told The Dispatch. “I think it already matters and I don’t think this dilemma is going to be solved in a court of law. I think it’s going to be solved in the court of public opinion. I can’t think of any individual in college football — player, coach or otherwise — who has more credibility and respect than Justin Fields.”
Mars did say there has been “some talk” of taking legal action against the conference, but it isn’t something he’d like to do. “I don’t think this is a situation that’s helped by people drawing swords, especially lawyers,” Mars said.