Two days after a coalition of Big Ten football players made headlines by releasing a unified statement on their concerns about returning to play during the COVID-19 pandemic, a group of Ohio State athletes responded with a statement of their own in which they expressed that they believe Ohio State is already doing what it needs to do to protect its athletes.
Football captains Tuf Borland, Wyatt Davis, Josh Myers and Jonathon Cooper were among athletes from numerous Ohio State sports who shared the letter, which was also shared by the Ohio State men's basketball team's official Twitter account, to social media on Friday.
“In response to the #BigTenUnited letter written by College Athlete Unity, The Ohio State University student-athletes would like to give our thoughts on conference and university protocols and safety efforts,” the letter begins. “We believe our institution is providing the proper structure and organization for safety. Here at Ohio State, we #SetTheStandard for what college athletics should look like amid COVID-19.
“We appreciate that the #BigTenUnited letter was intended to protect and voice concerns of Big Ten student-athletes, however, we do not think it represents the efforts and actions of Ohio State adequately. While there are still plenty of questions to be answered and plans to be made in order to compete this fall, we believe that our safety has been at the forefront of our institution's efforts for return to play models.”
The letter also states that Ohio State athletes have had a “consistent voice in the discussion” and that they “have been reassured across many levels that we can opt out of playing this year if we feel unsafe or uncomfortable.”
“We respect that these thoughts about safety and protocols may not be shared by all student-athletes across the country, but as Ohio State Buckeyes, we stand with the decisions of our athletic department and conference,” the letter concludes.
The letter, which was signed by “The Ohio State University Student Athletes,” did not specify how many athletes were involved in writing the letter. No Ohio State football players have publicly identified themselves as members of the Big Ten United group, though College Athlete Unity – the group that wrote the statement – told Lettermen Row's Tim May that it received 59 responses from Ohio State football players, though it did not specify names or what the responses entailed.
Ohio State football coach Ryan Day told reporters on Thursday that he has encouraged players to voice concerns they have about returning to play this fall to him and their position coaches, while he also told the team that any players who choose to opt out this season will not be ostracized.
“I talked to the team yesterday and made sure that they understood that if someone does have concerns and opt out, for whatever those reasons are – whether it’s high-risk or whatever they are – that we’re going to have conversations. And if at the end of the day, they don’t feel comfortable, their family doesn’t feel comfortable, that doesn’t mean they’re not going to be part of the program,” Day said Thursday.
Earlier in the week, Ohio State's captains also expressed during an interview session that they were confident in the university's COVID-19 protocols.
“My level of comfort in our safety is really high,” Myers said. “I think there’s nothing more that our coaches and trainers and our staff can do to keep us safe. I can’t say enough about what they’re doing.”