Justin Fields is using all his resources to reverse the Big Ten’s decision
Justin Fields posted a petition on his Twitter account this morning asking that the Big Ten reinstate the 2020 football season and allow players to simply opt out if they feel unsafe. The petition, which comes after the Big Ten and Pac-12 decided to suspend all fall sports earlier this week, has currently garnered nearly 20,000 signatures and counting.
Obviously, no one wants to see college football canceled. It’s heartbreaking that players like Fields won’t get to finish out their college careers as planned, and it stinks for fans, media and athletic departments as well. However, Fields is missing the point, which is that some things are bigger than football. The NCAA canceled all Division II and III fall championships and the majority of conferences in both lower divisions and outside of the Power 5 have opted to call off the upcoming season. Every student-athlete, from the Division III tennis player to the Heisman Trophy candidate, wants to play, but Big Ten University presidents believe it’s simply not worth putting health and safety on the line.
Breaking down the petition demands
First, it’s notable that Fields’s petition doesn’t ask for the reinstatement of all sports — just of the football season. This is a flawed concept to begin with, and would surely anger hundreds of non-football athletes should the conference listen to Fields.
The main point of the petition is that students should be allowed to opt out without repercussions but those who want to play should be allowed to. The problem with that is that COVID-19 doesn’t care who feels safe and who doesn’t. Obviously players at higher risk or with vulnerable family members would opt out, but perfectly healthy people have ended up hospitalized and with long-term health problems as a result of getting the virus. The Big Ten has a responsibility to protect young athletes even if they aren’t concerned about the virus.
Several individuals who signed the petition left comments about why they signed, several of which state that students are returning to campuses across the country, so football should be possible.
On top of that, the amount of interactions that college football players would have is drastically more than any average student on campus. Teams are traveling around the country, staying in hotels, playing against schools with different safety protocols. An outbreak at one school could rapidly jump to others via football teams, and that puts the rest of the student body at risk. If schools want to have in-person classes, it’s unrealistic to make things even riskier by playing sports.
It’s hard not to love college football, and the players have every right to be sad and angry that they don’t get to compete this season, but they also need to look at the bigger picture. College students have lost hands-on experiences, internships, study abroad opportunities, and other clubs and activities because of the pandemic, and the only difference with football is that it has a massive external fanbase. The cancelation by the Big Ten and Pac-12 was the best decision for the safety of the students, and that should always be the biggest priority.