Pac-12 football players release demands in letter to conference

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In an unprecedented moment of unity in college sports history, a group of Pac-12 football players are banding together to make a series of demands ahead of the 2020 season.

In an article published in The Players’ Tribune titled “#WeAreUnited”, the players threatened to opt-out of fall camp and games in the coming months unless the conference addresses concerns the players have both about safety due to COVID-19, social justice and financial imbalances in college athletics.

“#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,” the letter in The Players’ Tribune reads.

Several players took to Twitter to share these demands too using the titular hashtag, including UCLA defensive tackle Otito Ogbonnia and linebacker Caleb Johnson. Players from other Pac-12 sports also joined in on social media.

The players begin their list of demands by addressing safety concerns in the age of the COVID-19 pandemic. The players ask the Pac-12 to allow the option not to play this season without losing eligibility or their spot on a team’s roster.

They also ask to void any COVID-19 liability waivers they were made to sign upon arriving on campus for voluntary workouts, for there to be third-party experts selected by players to enforce player-approved health and safety standards.

The football players also demanded that the Pac-12 stop eliminating other sports. They called for a reduction of salaries for commissioner Larry Scott, coaches and administrators, as well as an end to performance and academic bonuses and “lavish facility expenditures”.

Scott is the highest-paid commissioner in college sports with a salary of $5.3 million, though he recently took a 12% pay cut during the pandemic.

“As an example, Stanford University should reinstate all sports discontinued by tapping into their $27.7 billion endowment,” the letter reads.

In July, Stanford announced it would eliminate 11 varsity sports at the end of the 2020-21 season due to the financial impact of the pandemic.

The players also demand an “end to racial injustice in college sports and society,” asking that the Pac-12 share 2% of conference revenue to support financial aid for low-income Black students and community initiatives, as well as the formation of a civic-engagement task force to tackle racial injustice.

And to close the letter, the players demand certain changes to the financial dynamic in college sports. They ask for 50% of each sport’s total conference revenue to be distributed among athletes, and six-year scholarships to help players complete their degrees.

Another demand is for the implementation of name, image and likeness rights to players so they can earn money off the field.

They also ask for guaranteed medical insurance for six year after the end of their collegiate careers end for “sports-related medical conditions, including COVID-19 illness.”

“Because immoral rules would punish us for receiving basic necessities or compensation for the use of our names, images and likenesses, while many of us and our families are suffering economically from the COVID-19 fallout, #WeAreUnited,” the letter reads. “Because we should be included in equitably sharing the revenue our talents generate, especially in a pandemic, #WeAreUnited.”

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