“The University of Rutgers [sic] has made the COVID vaccine mandatory to attend school and play football, therefore I have no other choice but to enter my name into the transfer portal,” Peyton Powell wrote on Twitter. According to the NCAA transfer portal rules, a player can withdraw his name at any time, and schools are free to contact a player once their name appears in the portal.
A Texas native, Powell transferred to Rutgers from his home state’s Baylor University in December 2019. He never played in a game during his sophomore year with the Scarlet Knights, reported student newspaper The Daily Targum.
Rutgers runs five campuses across New Jersey, including its main campus in New Brunswick, which is preparing to fully reopen to over 50,000 students this September. It is also one of the first universities in the United States to require COVID-19 vaccination as a condition of enrollment for the fall semester.
Students must submit their COVID-19 vaccination records by Aug. 1 or they will be blocked from the university’s NetID electronic services, The Targum reported in July, citing a Rutgers–New Brunswick official. Without NetID access, students will not be able to register for classes, upload assignments, use the school email system, or get a key to their residence hall.
“We are committed to health and safety for all members of our community, and adding COVID-19 vaccination to our student immunization requirements will help provide a safer and more robust college experience for our students,” Rutgers President Jonathan Holloway said in a statement announcing the vaccine requirement.
Powell’s decision to leave the Scarlet Knights comes amid an ongoing lawsuit challenging Rutgers’s vaccination policy. A group of 18 current and prospective students, along with non-profit organization Children’s Health Defense, sued the university earlier this month, alleging a violation of their 14th Amendment right to refuse undesired medical treatment.
“This mandate undermines our Constitution and Bill of Rights by denying students the freedom to make their own medical decisions,” said Mary Holland, president and general counsel of Children’s Health Defense. “No one should be forced or coerced into accepting any medical procedure against her wishes.”
Neither Powell nor Rutgers responded to a request for comment. Rutgers Scarlet Knights will be opening its 2021 season against the Temple Owls on Sept. 2. inside SHI Stadium in Piscataway, New Jersey.