Eight University of Nebraska football players are suing the Big Ten Conference over its decision to cancel the fall football season.
The athletes filed the suit in Lancaster County District Court on Thursday accusing the conference of breach of contract for breaking protocol outlined in its governing documents when it decided to postpone the fall season. The lawsuit alleged that the Big Ten Conference board never appropriately voted on the decision.
The athletes, as third-party beneficiaries under the conference’s governing documents, have “the right to expect the Big Ten will follow its own governing documents and all of its other rules, regulations and guidelines; will not make arbitrary and capricious decisions; and when a vote on a decision as momentous as canceling all fall sports is announced, will conduct an actual vote,” the lawsuit says, according to ESPN.
The lawsuit cited comments made last week by Michigan State President Samuel Stanley, according to Fox News. He said the decision “was more of a consensus than a vote. I think the bottom line is we’re united in what we’re doing now and all working together with this effort to, again, see what we can do in the springtime.”
The players — Garrett Snodgrass, Garrett Nelson, Ethan Piper, Noa Pola-Gates, Alante Brown, Jackson Hannah and Brant and Brig Banks — are seeking a maximum of $75,000 in damages and also say that the decision itself was based on “flawed data.” Several experts have criticized a Journal of the American Medical Association study cited in the Big Ten’s decision for its “rampant abnormalities” and “many statistic (sic) that make no sense.”
After the lawsuit was filed, the conference issued a statement saying that the board “overwhelmingly voted” to postpone the season over health concerns and to protect its athletes, according to The Athletic.
“We share the disappointment that some student-athletes and their families are feeling,” the statement said. “However, this lawsuit has no merit, and we will defend the decision to protect all student-athletes as we navigate through this global pandemic. We are actively considering options to get back to competition and look forward to doing so when it is safe to play.”
While the lawsuit is over the season’s canceling, Amy Pola-Gates, the mother of Nebraska player Noa Pola-Gates, said that the lawsuit was really about getting more information and clarity from the conference around its decision.
“Our key objective really is transparency,” she said, according to ESPN. “No one’s been clear. No one’s been specific. We think our boys deserve that, clear, specific, and honesty. I understand the cancellation of the season. I, too, am worried about COVID-19. Of course I don’t want my son to get sick. I don’t want other children to get sick. Those are all very valid reasons, but they’re not telling us where they got their information or what data they’re going off of. Everyone just says, ‘Oh, because I said so,’ and that doesn’t work for us.”
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