A group of 10 Midwest politicians are adding to the voices pleading for the Big Ten Conference to overturn its decision to postpone the fall football season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
A letter written by Michigan Speaker of the House Lee Chatfield was signed by nine fellow Republican state legislators — including Wisconsin Speaker Robin Vos and Senate Leader Scott Fitzgerald — and sent to Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren and the Big Ten Council of Presidents and Chancellors.
“After hearing from many concerned students, parents and coaches, we have been encouraged to convey our support for their wishes and our responsibility to defend the students’ long-term academic and career interests,” the letter reads.
Leaders from Iowa, Minnesota, Ohio and Pennsylvania also signed the letter.
The letter states the Big Ten’s decision to push back football and other fall sports while other conferences have chosen to play has put the Big Ten and its athletes at a disadvantage, and are costing athletes future opportunities. The ACC, Big 12, and SEC are all on track to play football this fall.
“This is even more frustrating when we think of how our Big Ten athletic programs are leading the way by providing outstanding health and safety protocols. All of that unprecedented planning and teamwork was an unmitigated success, and yet somehow the conference has decided to cast it aside anyway,” the letter reads.
The Big Ten COP/C voted 11-3 early last month to not play football this fall, a move that has sparked anger and dissention inside the conference. President Donald Trump spoke with Warren last week about starting the football season “immediately,” but issues with rapid testing availability, COVID-19’s effects on the heart and other factors remain in the way.
Big Ten COP/C bylaws state 60 percent of the council had to vote to nix the fall seasons, so if a vote to restart them held the same standard, six voters would need to flip their vote. Warren released an open letter Aug. 19 stating that the decision to play fall sports “won’t be revisited.”
“The support among players, parents, coaches and fans is overwhelming. Therefore, we respectfully ask that you take their concerns to heart and work with the leadership at our universities to allow sports to continue safely this fall,” the letter reads.
UW has seen a spike in cases since students arrived, and Chancellor Rebecca Blank said Monday she may shut down campus if students in Madison don’t limit themselves to only essential activity — buying food, going to work, attending classes, getting a COVID-19 test, attending a religious observance or participating in academic activities such as conducting research or studying.
Back in June a Yahoo! Sports writer suggested that the aforementioned Warren was trying to influence the presidential election. In June it was about registering student–athletes to vote and engaging in other political activity. One wonders, though, whether Warren’s decision that obviously affects swing-states Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania is designed to get voters angry enough to not vote for Donald Trump.
(The counter to that argument is that a lot of Trump voters are already angered enough by athlete political activism, which of course always seems to be on the Democratic side, to vow they will not watch pro or college games. National Basketball Association and Major League Baseball TV ratings are not good, though ratings are good for the National Hockey League, the league with the least political activism by players. Regardless of how you feel about athletes as activists, alienating the paying customers is not a sound business strategy.)
Who else isn’t getting on to the field, by the way? Marching bands, and you know how important they are.