A group of Pac-12 football players from multiple schools penned a letter in The Players’ Tribune threatening to opt out of fall camp and game participation unless their demands for fair treatment, safety regulations and concerns over racial justice for college athletes are met by the conference.
The letter is signed by Players of the Pac-12 and uses the hashtag #WeAreUnited to explain the group’s concerns, saying, “Because NCAA sports exploit college athletes physically, economically and academically, and also disproportionately harm Black college athletes, #WeAreUnited.”
According to a source, one of the bigger issues the group wants to address is racial injustice, which is outlined in the letter.
The student-athletes are asking the conference to form a permanent civic-engagement task force to address social injustice issues, as well as an annual Pac-12 Black College Athlete Summit with at least three athletes from every school in the conference.
In addition, the letter says the group wants the conference to direct 2% of conference revenue to support financial aid for low-income Black students, community initiatives and development programs for college athletes on campus.
The athletes within the group leading this charge also say they are being asked to play college sports in a pandemic without transparency and guarantees for their safety, and without the ability to secure representation while being asked to sign documents that could serve as liability waivers.
Among the demands listed in the letter, the group starts by asking for safety protections amid the coronavirus pandemic. Among those demands: allowing student-athletes to opt out of play during the pandemic without losing eligibility or a spot on the team, prohibiting any COVID-19 agreements that waive liability, and player-approved health and safety standards enforced by a third party selected by players to address COVID-19.
“Because we should not be stuck with sports-related medical expenses, including COVID-19 related expenses, #WeAreUnited,” the letter reads.
The group is also asking conference commissioner Larry Scott, administrators and coaches to “drastically reduce excessive pay” and end performance bonuses to help preserve all existing sports. In addition to those financial requests, the student-athletes are demanding guaranteed medical expense coverage for six years after college athletics eligibility ends.
The group is asking the conference to distribute 50 percent of each sport’s total conference revenue evenly among athletes in their respective sports, six-year athletic scholarships, and the ability to transfer one time with impunity.
The demands were released on Sunday. The Pac-12 said in a statement on Saturday it had yet to hear from the group.
|Treyjohn Butler, CB, Stanford|
|Jake Curhan, OL, Cal|
|Valentino Daltoso, OL, Cal|
|Joshua Drayden, CB, Cal|
|Jaydon Grant, CB, Oregon State|
|Elisha Guidry, DB, UCLA|
|Malik Hausman, CB, Arizona|
|Dallas Hobbs, DL, Washington State|
|Jevon Holland, S, Oregon|
|Ty Jones, WR, Washington|
|Cody Shear, OL, Arizona State|
|Joe Tryon, LB, Washington|
“Neither the Conference nor our university athletics departments have been contacted by this group regarding these topics,” a Pac-12 statement said. “We support our student-athletes using their voice and have regular communications with our student-athletes at many different levels on a range of topics. As we have clearly stated with respect to our fall competition plans, we are, and always will be, directed by medical experts, with the health, safety and well being of our student athletes, coaches and staff always the first priority. We have made it clear that any student athlete who chooses not to return to competition for health or safety reasons will have their scholarship protected.”
In a news release on Sunday, the group said it includes “hundreds of Pac-12 football players throughout our conference who are very concerned with the risks COVID-19 poses to our personal health and the health of our families and communities.”
“There’s not enough transparency about health risks, no uniformity to ensure we’re all safe when we play each other, and no adequate enforcement infrastructure,” the statement said. “NCAA sports has truly failed us, it doesn’t enforce any health and safety standards. We believe a football season under these conditions would be reckless and put us at needless risk. We will not play until there is real change that is acceptable to us.”
“I love football. I love football so much that I am willing to give it up if things are not done right and we are not in a safe environment,” UCLA defensive back Elisha Guidry said in a statement. “Every player that puts on these pads to play thisgame is a person with their own family, own friends, own passions, and own purpose that is greater than football. We want to play the game we love and have given so much of ourselves to, but we want to do it in a safe way.”
Among the players who are listed among the #WeAreUnited movement as media contacts for their respective schools are Oregon safety Jevon Holland, an All-American and potential first-round pick in next year’s NFL draft, and Washington star linebacker Joe Tryon, who led the Huskies with 12½ tackles for loss and eight sacks in 2019.
“This is important to me because I want to see the young men that are being exploited by the PAC12 [and] NCAA have the right to earn money for their families,” Holland said. “I want the safety of my peers’ lives to be placed higher than the sport they play. If we are treated like employees then we should be compensated as such.”
The list of contacts also includes players from Arizona, Arizona State, Cal, Oregon State, Stanford and Washington State. Players from Colorado, USC and Utah weren’t mentioned, but the group claims it has participation at each of the 12 schools in the conference.
ESPN’s Mark Schlabach contributed to this report.