Ohio State Had Football Players Sign Virus Risk Waiver

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The Ohio State University athletic department had returning football players sign a two-page electronic waiver titled the "Buckeye Pledge," which outlines the risks of contracting coronavirus through sports participation while encouraging the student-athletes to take specific measures to mitigate that risk.

Obtained through an open-records request by The Columbus Dispatch, the document asks players to “pledge to take responsibility for my own health and help stop the spread of the COVID-19. It warns athletes that “although the university is following the coronavirus guidelines issued by the CDC and other experts to reduce the spread of infection, I can never be completely shielded from all risk of illness caused by COVID-19 or other infections.”

Incoming freshmen who had not turned 18 needed to have a parent or legal guardian sign the waiver.

In an interview with ESPN Sunday, athletic director Gene Smith said the waiver was intended more for educational purposes than liability.

“We don’t look at that as a legal document,” Smith said. “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.’ ”

The form mentions that players who do not adhere to the pledge could be prohibited from participating in athletic activities or using on-campus facilities. It would not affect their scholarship status, according to the document.

The protocols that Ohio State athletes have been required to follow include submitting to coronavirus testing, reporting exposure to COVID-19, disclosing symptoms of the virus, including a fever of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, and remaining home if they feel sick.

The school — which relied on guidance from the CDC and the Ohio Department of Health, among other health agencies, in establishing its protocols — also asks players to “participate fully and honestly” with its athletic training staff for contact tracing.

Ohio State isn't alone in requiring a signature before participation. Big Ten Conference rival Indiana put out a COVID-19 participant expectations and commitment pledge for football players to sign before they return next week, according to the Dispatch.

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