OSU QB Fields starts petition for Big Ten season

1

Aug 16, 2020

    Tom VanHaarenESPN Staff Writer

    Close

      t

    • ESPN staff writer
    • t

    • Joined ESPN in 2011
    • t

    • Graduated from Central Michigan

Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields started a petition requesting the Big Ten immediately reinstate the 2020 football season, a petition that had nearly 250,000 signatures as of 4 p.m. ET Monday.

Fields tweeted Sunday that “this cause is close to my heart” and urged people to sign the petition. The campaign said it is asking the Big Ten to allow its players and teams to make their own choices as to whether they wish to play or opt out of the fall season.

The petition follows the Big Ten’s decision to postpone the 2020 season based on medical advice regarding the coronavirus pandemic and a vote from the conference’s presidents and chancellors.

In the petition, Fields wrote that the players believe “the safety protocols have been established and can be maintained to mitigate concerns of exposure to Covid 19.” He goes on to say that he believes the players should be able to make decisions about what is best for their health and future.

Appearing Monday on ESPN’s Keyshawn, JWill & Zubin, Fields explained the message he is trying to present to the Big Ten and commissioner Kevin Warren.

“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.”

The Big Ten is aware of the petition but has no comment at this time, a league spokesman said.

Ohio State center Josh Myers said he signed the petition. In an interview with ESPN before Fields posted the petition, Myers expressed his frustration with the Big Ten over the decision to move the season to the spring, saying he and his teammates felt it was safe to try to play 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.”

Asked whether his teammates were unified in wanting a fall season, Myers said, “To my knowledge, every single player on the team wanted to play. As far as I know, there wasn’t one person who said, ‘Well, hey, maybe this isn’t safe.’ There wasn’t any of that. I never heard it one time throughout the whole process.”

Michigan defensive back Hunter Reynolds also signed the petition, telling ESPN, “I maintain the stance that other players and I want to play in a situation that is made as safe as possible and work with the conference and NCAA in order to determine a solution that addresses the concerns that college athletes have and finding a way to ensure that every school is adhering to a uniform set of protocols.”

Reynolds and Minnesota defensive back Benjamin St-Juste are co-presidents of the College Athlete Unity group, which was formed this summer to give student-athletes a platform for peaceful protest regarding racial injustice and other social issues. St-Juste signed the petition, saying he wanted to show support for fellow Big Ten players, but acknowledged that the conference made a “professional and rational decision.”

“We just have to go with what they say at this point because time was working against us and the plan was not well structured,” St-Juste said.

Some parents of Big Ten players have spoken out about their desire to let their sons play, as parents from Iowa, Penn State, Ohio State and Nebraska have all released letters addressed to Warren looking for answers about why the season was canceled and what happens moving forward.

Christopher O’Shaughnessy, whose son, Michael, is a punter at Ohio State, said he signed the petition and that the parents are proud of Fields and what he is doing.

“If you’re telling us it’s not safe for our kids to be either in the practices or in the games, tell us why. We want to know,” O’Shaughnessy said. “If we’re supposed to be protecting our kids from something, we want to know what that is. The Big Ten did not share any of that information with us, and that’s where I get mad.”

ESPN’s Heather Dinich and Andrea Adelson contributed to this report.