A anonymous group of college football athletes from the Pac-12 conference, going by the moniker “Players of the Pac-12”, released an article on The Players Tribune website on Sunday morning stating that they will be opting out of fall camp and game participation due to various concerns regarding the COVID-19 pandemic and racial injustice, primarily among its Black athletes.
The article, called “#WeAreUnited“, the collective spoke about their concerns regarding the current landscape in the NCAA – primarily that they exploit the athletes for financial gain, contradicting their views on racial equality while also harming Black athletes and the expectation that the athletes will come back and play sports in the middle of a pandemic without any clear safety plan.
“Because the NCAA has failed us and we are prepared to ensure that our conference treats us fairly whether or not it continues its NCAA membership, #WeAreUnited,” the players said. “In forming alliances with college athletes from other conferences to unite with us for change, #WeAreUnited. #WeAreUnited in our commitment to secure fair treatment for college athletes. Due to COVID-19 and other serious concerns, we will opt-out of Pac-12 fall camp and game participation unless the following demands are guaranteed in writing by our conference to protect and benefit both scholarship athletes and walk-ons.”
Among the demands the players are asking for are:
- COVID-19 Protections: the option not to play without losing eligibility or their spot on the team, along with prohibiting agreements that waive liability; mandatory safety protections approved from and enforced by a third party.
- Protect All Sports: all Pac-12 administrators and coaches (including commissioner Larry Scott) to voluntarily and drastically reduce excessive pay and eliminate performance/academic bonuses; eliminate lavish expenditures and use endowment funds to preserve all sports (in early July, Stanford University announced they would eliminate 11 varsity sports at the end of the 2020-21 season; this agreement would have the school tap into their $27.7 billion endowment to keep those sports programs alive).
- End Racial Injustice in College Sports and Society: form a permanent task force made of leaders and experts of the players’ choosing to address racial injustice in college sports and society; committing 2 percent of conference revenue (directed by players) to support financial aid for low-income Black students, community initiatives, and development programs for college athletes on each campus; form annual Pac-12 Black College Athlete Summit with guaranteed representation of at least three athletes from each school.
- Economic Freedom and Equity: guaranteed medical coverage (including COVID-19 expenses) for six years after eligibility ends; name, image and likeness rights and representation: fair market pay, rights and freedoms – 50 percent of conference revenue to be distributed amongst athletes in respective sports, six-year scholarships to cover both undergraduate and graduate degree completion, etc.
This comes on the heels of a leaked conference call between SEC administrators, medical experts and members of the SEC Football-Student Athlete Leadership Council, where the players expressed concerns about taking the field while COVID-19 cases were still climbing across the country (the SEC announced last Thursday that they would be playing a 10-game, conference-only season).