Ohio State doesn’t give a…
The school recently asked players and parents to sign a coronavirus risk waiver before they came back to campus for workouts. It’s known as the “Buckeye Pledge,” according to a report from ESPN.
The “pledge” is to “help stop the spread of the COVID-19,” while also asking players to take ownership that “I may be exposed to COVID-19 and other infections.”
However, failure to comply with the pledge and all the rules and regulations that come along with it could lead to a player losing out on “athletic participation privileges,” though it would not affect their scholarship.
As you can guess, all the players signed it. As if they ever had a choice.
Workplace power dynamics can be tricky, especially since this isn’t a contract. Or is it?
“That’s why we call it a pledge,” said OSU Athletic Director Gene Smith. “We don’t look at that as a legal document. It’s a Buckeye pledge. Allow us to help you so that if we face a situation, our trainers, our strength coaches, our coaches or any athletic administrator sees a student-athlete not wearing a mask or not social distancing, we can say, ‘Hey, you made a commitment. You signed a pledge. Your parents signed a pledge. Your parents are a part of this.”
Pledges are usually stated, not signed. Which is why it’s so hard to see this as anything but a school trying to protect itself, and not its students.
In a moment in which Dabo Swinney, of all people, is taking part in Black Lives Matter rallies, Texas football players are demanding that the school do better by black students, and the University of Houston has suspended workouts after six student-athletes tested positive for the coronavirus, the Buckeyes are the only ones that are still on some, “football matters” type stuff.
And it’s all because of money.
Last year, OSU’s athletic department pulled in $210 million in revenue, and a lot of that has to do with the football team. Forbes recognizes the Buckeyes as one of the five most-valuable football programs in the country, as from 2015-2017 they enjoyed an average annual revenue of $132 million, with an average annual profit of $75 million.
The school isn’t too fond of player compensation, but still wants its “student-athletes” to risk their health for a game that they play for free, besides a small stipend, tuition, room and board, and whatever else some people use as flimsy examples of what student-athletes should be grateful for.
Last fall, when the Fair Pay to Play Act was signed into law in California, Smith said that he wouldn’t put schools on the schedule that play in states where bills have been passed that would allow players to make money off their name, likeness, and image.
Head football coach Ryan Day stood with his boss.
“I’m interested to see where it goes and the talks that happen. I do definitely think that there’s opportunity out there for these guys, but at the same time, it’s not that easy,” Day told ESPN. “There’s a history of college football that’s been around for a long time, and I know everybody’s sensitive to not turn that off onto a bad road.”
From being against players trying to make money to the health of its current team, Ohio State has shown us that they’re a university that’s in the business of football.
And that means that despite a global pandemic, the games must continue. Even if the rest of the country’s attention is focused on more important things.