Should Schools be Asking Athletes to Sign Liability Waivers for the Coronavirus?

Christopher Walsh

Student athletes at Ohio State University were asked to sign 'The Buckeye Pledge' which waives the university from any responsibility if one of its players tests positive for coronavirus.

Having athletes sign liability waivers presents some interesting questions as more and more colleges are having athletes return to campus for voluntary workouts. 

On one hand, the athletes are probably safer on campus, surrounded by support workers and trainers who know what to look for regrading the coronavirus.

The waivers are also a way of educating players, and making sure they know the risks involved, without any real legal standing. No one can claim ignorance for not wearing a mask or using social distancing away from the football facility. 

However, they waivers could obviously represent a means for schools asserting power over their athletes. 

"I wonder whether any of the coaches or administrators are signing the same pledge?" Pat Forde of Sports Illustrated questioned. "It seems like what's good for the student athletes could also be good for the coaches."

Ross Dellenger took a closer look at the issue of liability waivers, which are also in place at Indiana, Iowa and Tennessee.

He notes that two weeks after the first college football programs were welcomed back athletes for voluntary workouts, a couple of trends have emerged: (1) athletes are testing positive for the virus, many of them asymptomatic; and (2) athletes, without legal representation, are agreeing to waive their legal rights. 

But the situation is hardly unique to college football. Before long waivers will be commonplace, whether they are enforceable or not, at everything from movie theaters and hair salons. 

Alabama released its COVID-19 testing protocols on Tuesday, but there was no mention of waivers. BamaCentral has asked for clarification on its  policy (This story will be updated if necessary). 

Tuscaloosa went over 1,400 confirmed cases of the coronavirus this week, up from just over 200 on May 1. 

Pro Football

How much did the Saints help the Catholic Church on its sex abuse crisis? More than they admitted

New Orleans's favorite team has acknowledged providing “minimal” public relations help to the local archdiocese as it handled revelations of sexual abuse by clergy—but an SI investigation found that the team's aid was more extensive. Survivors, who feel betrayed by both institutions, want answers.

"If the Saints had involvement in this, we have a right to know," says season ticket holder, survivor, and activist Kevin Bourgeois. "And there’s a lot of people in the public, in this city, that are livid that [the] organization weighed in on pedophile priests.’

The Saints, says season ticket holder, survivor, and activist Kevin Bourgeois, "are not to be trusted."

"When the Saints do this, it sets us back to an area where we don’t want to be anymore, because of the hidden things that are going on behind our backs,” says John Anderson, a survivor and lifelong fan of the team. “Now, instead of using this for therapy, I’m using it almost as a war against myself. "

The Church and Saints cover
Sports Illustrated

Did You Notice?

• The Sixers are the team that benefits most from the NBA’s hiatus.

• The Royals, which selected Alabama junior right fielder Tyler Gentry in the third round, are dominating the undrafted free agent market after the shortened draft.

 Thanks to pressure from Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford, the U.K. government agreed to extend its free school lunch program through the summer.

• Has the squabble between MLB players and owners permanently damaged the sport

• The risk of the NBA’s return to play is being shouldered primarily by the players. 

The Lighter Side 

• When this guy was a kid, his dad got him to pose as an SI Kids reporter to interview celebrities.

• The NBA’s Disney Bubble Sounds Like the Strangest Summer Camp Ever. Inside the NBA’s plans for Orlando.

• The annual Nathan’s hotdog-eating contest will go forward this year, but without fans.

• Today is the anniversary of the craziest day in sports. 

For more SI Hot Clicks 

Comments (1)
No. 1-1
Tyler  Martin
Tyler Martin


I am totally fine with schools protecting themselves and asking the student-athletes to sign waviers.