Big Ten lawsuit art

In these confusing times, we all desperately need some semblance of normal, some routine to fall into.

For the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, we thought we had found that normalcy on Aug. 6 when the Big Ten released the fall 2020 football schedule.

But six days later, on Aug. 11, the Big Ten announced that the fall 2020 sports season would be postponed due to the health concerns.

This, of course, led to some blowback. On Aug. 16, parents of 81 Husker football players signed an open letter protesting the decision and condemning the lack of transparency in the decision.

In response to this open letter and other concerns, Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren released an open letter on Aug. 19 stating that the Big Ten would not revisit the decision to postpone fall sports.

On Aug. 27, eight Husker football players filed a lawsuit against the Big Ten, accusing the conference of wrongful interference with business expectations, breach of contract and declaratory judgement.

There are serious, long-lasting ramifications to the Big Ten’s decision to cancel the 2020 fall sports season. But this lawsuit will do nothing to address these consequences and is a self-indulgent outlet for Nebraska football players to protest how the decision affects them as individuals.

The lawsuit hinges on the allegation that the Big Ten Conference Council of Presidents and Chancellors did not vote to cancel the fall season, according to public statements by the presidents of the University of Minnesota and Michigan State University.

In the lawsuit itself, though, the president of MSU is quoted as saying there was no formal vote, which is a dramatically different allegation from a legal standpoint. 

Andrew Luger, the lawyer representing the Big Ten, told the Omaha World Herald that there is no precedent of student-athletes successfully overturning the decision of the Big Ten governing body. 

On Monday night, the Big Ten released a record of their voting process, revealing an 11-3 vote that followed all conference regulations. According to Luger, this will make the lawsuit almost entirely void. At this point, it seems extremely unlikely there will be any change to the Big Ten’s decision.

So if there’s no chance UNL will actually be able to play football this year, why did the players file this lawsuit, which will certainly cost them time and resources?

It is my understanding that the main goal of this lawsuit is not to make any actual changes, but to allow the Husker football team to express their frustration at the Big Ten’s decisions and the current pandemic.

But the frustration these players are expressing is selfish and narrow-minded and it gives the University of Nebraska-Lincoln a bad public image.

While the lawsuit hinges on the allegation of no vote — which would be a breach of contract — it lists numerous consequences that follow from the decision to cancel the fall sports season. 

The lawsuit asserts the decision to cancel the fall season limits the players’ opportunities to play professional football, market themselves and develop their brand. It claims the alleged lack of voting unfairly violated the player-conference contract because the plaintiffs “followed all precautions, underwent regular testing and lived according to the guidelines of the world-class experts at UNMC all for the chance to play football in September.” 

But the Nebraska football team is not the only group that had to follow precautions and live according to health guidelines. That is what, I hope, every student who attends UNL has been doing this summer — all for the chance to come back to campus in August.

I know living like this — social distanced, in-person activities slashed, not being able to see friends and loved ones — is hard. It’s lonely, depressing and difficult, but it’s not unique to Husker football players. 

I’m not saying the Big Ten behaved perfectly. The fact they released an entire fall season schedule six days before canceling the season is frustrating. The fact UNL will lose about $80-120 million in sports revenue is important, unfortunate and devastating. 

This economic burden will also affect many individuals across the community. The city of Lincoln will likely lose nearly $300 million from the loss of fall sports, and the furloughs and budget cuts in the athletic department will have a tangible and negative impact on the Husker community. 

But the unfortunate reality remains: over 6 million Americans have been infected with the coronavirus and at least 180,000 have died from the virus. Over the past two weeks, there has been a national average of 42,082 new cases each day, and an 11% increase in new cases in the state of Nebraska. 

We’re nowhere near getting a cure, and though younger populations may be at less risk of death from the virus, there is still a serious risk of developing myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle causing long-lasting health problems. 

Though the Atlantic Coast Conference and Southeastern Conference have decided to play football this fall season, the Big Ten and Pac-12 Conference have made the right decision in canceling sports for the safety of players and staff.

Husker football players need to recognize this and understand the Big Ten has their best interests — and the interests of everyone in the conference — at heart. They need to find another way to express their frustration than a self-serving lawsuit that draws national attention to UNL and doesn’t shed light on the tangible financial consequences that will arise from this situation.

We have all lost so much to this virus. Loved ones, landmark experiences and important traditions have all been victims of the pandemic. But the solution is not to file retaliatory lawsuits. Anger and annoyance will only make our situation worse. 

We all need to show each other love, grace and patience in these trying times. I ask that the Husker football players lead by example and drop this lawsuit so we can build the unity and community that the Huskers are famous for.

Sydney Miller is a junior psychology major. Reach them at sydneymiller@dailynebraskan.com.