Returning OSU Football Players Must Sign COVID-19 Risk Waiver

The two-page coronavirus risk waiver is called the ‘Buckeye Pledge.’

Returning OSU Football Players Must Sign COVID-19 Risk Waiver

Before Ohio State University (OSU) football players returned to campus last week for voluntary workouts, they were required to sign a waiver acknowledging the risk of contracting the coronavirus.

The two-page document is called the “Buckeye Pledge” and outlines the health risks associated with team practices and other athletic activities, reports Buckeye Extra. The waiver also requires players to abide by strict health and safety protocols, as well as participate in contact tracing efforts and to report exposures to COVID-19, reports CBS News. Additionally, the pledge acknowledges the risk of contracting the virus even if the players follow OSU’s protocols.

The waiver was obtained by the Columbus Dispatch via a public records request. Incoming freshman who had not turned 18 were required to have a parent or legal guardian sign the document, reports USA Today.

According to OSU Athletic Director Gene Smith, the intention of the university was to educate the players about the risk rather than to avoid liability.

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

However, liability exposures related to COVID-19 when campuses reopen this fall pose significant challenges for institutions of higher education and school districts.

“The record following other disasters, the litigious nature of our society and the human need to assign blame when faced with an adverse outcome all but guarantees that litigation will follow,” Idaho Office of School Safety and Security Analyst Guy Bliesner told Campus Safety last month. “Compounding this issue is another reality: Nearly all school districts’ liability insurance coverage specifically excludes claims related to viral infection or transmission.”

Waivers like the one OSU football players were required to sign could become commonplace on college campuses. Fans who attend games might also be required to sign similar documents, although campuses have yet to determine if fans will be allowed in stadiums this fall to watch the games in person.

About the Author

Robin Hattersley Gray
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Robin has been covering the security and campus law enforcement industries since 1998 and is a specialist in school, university and hospital security, public safety and emergency management, as well as emerging technologies and systems integration. She joined CS in 2005 and has authored award-winning editorial on campus law enforcement and security funding, officer recruitment and retention, access control, IP video, network integration, event management, crime trends, the Clery Act, Title IX compliance, sexual assault, dating abuse, emergency communications, incident management software and more. Robin has been featured on national and local media outlets and was formerly associate editor for the trade publication Security Sales & Integration. She obtained her undergraduate degree in history from California State University, Long Beach.

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