Eight Nebraska football players have filed a lawsuit against the Big Ten. By doing so, the players hope to force the conference to reverse its previous decision to postpone its football season until 2021.
The 13-page suit was obtained by the Omaha World-Herald. Represented in the complaint, filed in the District Court of Lancaster County, are linebackers Garrett Snodgrass, Garrett Nelson and Jackson Hannah; offensive linemen Ethan Piper and Brant Banks; safety Noa Pola-Gates; wide receiver Alante Brown; and long snapper Brig Banks.
The suit claims the Big Ten's "arbitrary and capricious" decision should be overturned because it didn't follow established guidelines and was "unjustified" based on flawed medical information. The players' attorney, Mike Flood, said the lawsuit "isn't about money or damages, it's about real-life relief." Moreover, Flood argued that athletes followed the safety guidelines set forth by the University of Nebraska Medical Center.
In all, the suit raises three counts against the conference:
- Wrongful interference with business expectations -- that the season represents an opportunity for players to work towards a career in football and develop brands for name/image/likeness use later.
- Breach of contract by not holding an actual vote within its Council of Presidents and Chancellors.
- Declaratory judgment by either not actually voting on the decision or being unable to produce evidence of a vote.
The complete lawsuit is below.
The Big Ten announced on Aug. 11 it would not play football in the fall in part due to concerns over Myocarditis, a condition that involves an inflammation of the heart muscle. The condition can reduce the heart's ability to pump, causing rapid or abnormal heartbeat. The study used by the Big Ten has come into question by Venk Murthy, a University of Michigan cardiologist.
However, the more notable pushback hasn't been so much against the decision itself, but how the process played out. The Big Ten, and in particular commissioner Kevin Warren, has been criticized for a lack of transparency and communication in the process. That criticism has been echoed by Big Ten players, coaches, parents, fans and even athletic directors. Of note, Nebraska has been among the more aggressive critics of the Big Ten's decision, though the school would face numerous legal and logistical hurdles if it tried to play football outside the league this year.
Shortly after the suit was filed on Thursday, the Big Ten released its own statement on the matter, noting that the conference's council of presidents "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.
"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."