Pac-12 Player Group Latest Threat To Playing '20 Football Season
The group of Pac-12 football players threatening to sit out the '20 season due to "academic, economic, health and racial injustices" is the latest obstacle to a campaign "already in jeopardy because of the coronavirus pandemic," according to Rusty Simmons of the S.F. CHRONICLE. Thirteen players, under the #WeAreUnited banner, "claimed to speak for all players in the conference" and pledged to "opt out of training camp and games" if a series of mandates were not met. Among the concerns, which were detailed on The Players Tribune, are the "ability to refuse to play this season amid COVID-19 fears without risking eligibility, roster spots or scholarships." They also want "third-party enforcement of COVID-19 safety measures." The players also "want to form a permanent 'civic engagement task force' that addresses racial injustice in college sports and uses 2% of conference revenue to support financial aid for low-income Black students" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 8/3). Arizona State OL Cody Shear indicated that there are "about 400 Pac-12 players on a group chat who are talking about all of this." ESPN's Heather Dinich noted two UCLA players expressed the hope of speaking with Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott and school ADs this week. Dinich: "There are so many issues going on right now that this opened a door for them to bring it to light. ... The next step, to be quite honest, seems a little bit blurry, but they are hoping to gather support from other players around the country as well” (“Get Up,” ESPN, 8/3).
LOOKING AT THE DEMANDS: In Portland, James Crepea noted that many of the demands by the group "are already being met by the conference and its member schools, including the protection of scholarships for athletes who choose not to play this academic year because of safety concerns about COVID-19 and testing athletes for the virus." However, Cal CB Joshua Drayden "contends that the regularity of COVID-19 testing in the conference is not frequent enough at some schools" (Portland OREGONIAN, 8/2). In Seattle, Mike Vorel notes in addition to having scholarships protected, the group is "demanding players be allowed to sit out without losing a year of eligibility." It also is "pushing to prohibit or void any agreement with a school that waives that school’s liability as it relates to the COVID-19 pandemic" (SEATTLE TIMES, 8/3). THE ATHLETIC's Andy Staples noted some of the demands created by the players "will be met easily because players and administrators are on the same page," while some "will get laughed at." It is the "stuff in the middle where the players could make significant progress if they’re willing to prioritize the feasible over the the unlikely" (THEATHLETIC.com, 8/2).
WEST COAST TRADITION: In S.F., Scott Ostler writes the #WeAreUnited group is "significant because it’s a continuation of the West Coast’s ... leadership in fighting for social justice and athletes’ rights." Ostler writes, "The West Coast sports scene, going back almost 100 years, has a history of roiling the water, fighting for the underdog and forcing change, and we’re at it again with #WeAreUnited." He continues, "Whatever you think about the #WeAreUnited movement and its leaders, give the young men credit for intelligence and timing." By protesting and demanding, the #WeAreUnited players are "putting their college and pro careers on the line" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 8/3).
SEC PLAYERS CONCERNED, TOO: In DC, Klemko & Giambalvo noted one day before the SEC on Thursday announced plans to play a conference-only schedule this fall, several football players during a private meeting with conference leaders and medical advisers "raised concerns about their safety, only to be told that positive cases on their teams were a 'given.'" The Wednesday meeting "included more than a dozen SEC football players, members of the conference’s medical advisory board and SEC officials, including Commissioner Greg Sankey." An SEC spokesperson said that it was "designed as a 'confidential free exchange.'" One official told players on the call, “There are going to be outbreaks. We’re going to have positive cases on every single team in the SEC. That’s a given. And we can’t prevent it." Texas A&M LB Keeath Magee II "wondered aloud whether starting the season with so many unanswered questions would be something the officials would come to regret." He said, “You guys have answered a lot of questions the best way that you guys could, and we really appreciate it. But as much as you guys don’t know … it’s just kind of not good enough" (WASHINGTON POST, 8/2).
NATIONWIDE ISSUE: USA TODAY's Dan Wolken writes under the header, "Athletes Are Paying Attention, Don't Like What They Hear In Push To Start College Football." The '20 college football season "will happen to whatever extent it possibly can because athletics departments need the money, and they’re placing that burden on the backs of unpaid amateurs who are taking on all the risk to their health and inconvenience to their lives without any added incentive to do so." But "instead of being treated as crucial partners in an entertainment enterprise," players are being "asked to function as essential workers so that schools who have spent lavishly and irresponsibly for years on facilities and coaching salaries can minimize the difficult decisions they’re going to have to make and TV networks can recoup some of the money they’ve lost without live sports to show for much of this year" (USA TODAY, 8/3). YAHOO SPORTS' Pete Thamel wrote the "voice of the player has been distinctly missing from the public dialogue" regarding a '20 college football season (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 8/1).