Court Battles

Nebraska football players suing over postponed season

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Eight University of Nebraska football players are suing the Big Ten conference, calling its decision to postpone the fall season due to the coronavirus pandemic “unjustified.”

In a 13-page complaint Thursday obtained by the Omaha World-Herald, the eight Cornhuskers said the Aug. 11 decision failed to follow established decisionmaking protocols and was based on flawed medical data.

Players Garrett Snodgrass, Garrett Nelson, Ethan Piper, Noa Pola-Gates, Alante Brown, Brant Banks, Brig Banks and Jackson Hannah joined the complaint, according to the newspaper. Their attorney, Mike Flood, said the suit “isn’t about money or damages, it’s about real-life relief.”

“Our Clients want to know whether there was a vote and the details of any vote, and whether the Big Ten followed its own rules in reaching its decision,” Flood said. “Sadly, these student-athletes have no other recourse than filing a lawsuit against their conference.”

College and professional sports teams, conferences and leagues have struggled with how to hold games during the pandemic. Among the NCAA “Power Five” conferences, the Pac-12 has joined the Big Ten in postponing the fall season, while the ACC, SEC and Big 12 are planning on moving forward with theirs in a modified capacity.

Several parents of Nebraska students also condemned the Big Ten postponement in an Aug. 20 letter and called for conference leadership to provide the documents they based the decision on. The parents of Snodgrass, Hannah, Nelson, Piper and the Bankses all signed the letter.

The suit accuses the conference of breach of contract and wrongful interference with business expectations by postponing the season. It also accuses the conference of violating its own bylaws by “not actually voting on the decision, or at least being unwilling and/or unable to produce records of such a vote.”

“Canceling the fall campaign based on what is now outdated or inaccurate medical information — while not taking into account why players are actually safer in a team environment that tests them regularly — cannot be justified,” the lawsuit states.

League Commissioner Kevin Warren announced the postponement in an Aug. 19 open letter. He wrote later that the decision was “thorough and deliberative, and based on sound feedback, guidance and advice from medical experts.”

“The Big Ten Conference Council of Presidents and Chancellors (COP/C) overwhelmingly voted to postpone the fall sports season based on medical concerns and in the best interest of the health and safety of our student-athletes. This was an important decision for our 14 member institutions and the surrounding communities,” the conference said in a statement to The Hill.

“We share the disappointment that some student-athletes and their families are feeling. 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,” the conference added.

Tags Big Ten Conference College football cornhuskers Coronavirus NCAA

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