Big Ten football, pandemic and politics collide during congressional testimony

Congress wrestles with laws, like Colorado’s, that would let college athletes earn money from companies

Wide receiver Ihmir Smith-Marsette, No. 6, of the Iowa Hawkeyes scores on a kickoff return against the Nebraska Cornhuskers at Memorial Stadium on Nov. 29, 2019, in Lincoln, Nebraska. (Steven Branscombe/Getty Images)

The Big Ten athletic conference will “keep its season postponed” for fall sports until it can guarantee more rigorous COVID-19 testing and address potential long-term health complications for student athletes, the chancellor of the University of Wisconsin’s flagship university told U.S. senators Tuesday.

The senators’ discussion about safety protocols for athletes during the coronavirus outbreak came as Congress wrestles with how to respond to state laws, including in Colorado, that would let college athletes collect money from companies for their use of the athletes’ name, image and likeness. 

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The president has tried to goad the Big Ten into resuming its football season, and many of the conference’s football players and coaches have publicly called for a quick restart as well. Earlier this month, Trump said that negotiations were “on the one-yard line” in connection with a resumption of Big Ten play.