Pac-12 players threaten to sit out 2020 season over health concerns, medical coverage, racial injustice

A group of Pac-12 football players published a list of demands on The Players Tribune that they want met ahead of the 2020 season. If not, they are threatening to opt out of participating in fall camp and playing in games. The list of demands ranges from ensuring players’ safety — as they’re being asked to take the field during the COVID-19 pandemic — to an equitable share in revenue generated by college football and ending racial injustice in college sports and society.

“#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 statement reads.

Health and safety precautions: The demands are broken down into four groups with this topping the list. The players are demanding the option to not play football during the pandemic without risk of losing eligibility or their place on their team’s roster. They also want to prohibit and void any COVID-19 agreements that waive liability on the school’s behalf. The players also want “player-approved health and safety standards enforced by a third party selected by the players” to deal with playing during the pandemic.

Protecting all sports, not just football: The players also want all sports to be protected. To accomplish this goal, they want schools to eliminate “excessive expenditures.” To do this, they want Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott, administrators and coaches to “voluntarily and drastically reduce excessive pay” while ending performance and academic bonuses. They also want schools to “end lavish facility expenditures” and use endowment funds to preserve all sports. The players specifically cited Stanford’s $27.7 billion endowment.

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Racial injustice: When it comes to racial injustice, the players want the Pac-12 to form “a permanent civic-engagement task force made up of our leaders, experts of our choice, and university and conference administrators to address outstanding issues such as racial injustice in college sports and in society.” They also want 2% of conference revenue “support financial aid for low-income Black students, community initiatives and development programs for college athletes on each campus.” They also seek to see the Pac-12 form an annual Pac-12 Black College Athlete Summit that would include at least three athletes chosen by the players from every school.

Medical coverage and expenses: Finally, the players have demands that include guaranteed medical expense coverage for players who suffer sports-related medical conditions that lasts six years after eligibility ends. The insurance would consist of coverage for anything related to COVID-19. There’s also the demand that players are allowed to “secure representation, receive basic necessities from any third party, and earn money for use of our name, image, and likeness rights.”

The players also want fair market pay, rights and freedoms, summarized by the following six demands.

  1. Distribute 50% of each sport’s total conference revenue evenly among athletes in their respective sports.
  2. Six-year athletic scholarships to foster undergraduate and graduate degree completion.
  3. Elimination of all policies and practices restricting or deterring our freedom of speech, our ability to fully participate in charitable work, and our freedom to participate in campus activities outside of mandatory athletics participation.
  4. Ability of players of all sports to transfer one time without punishment, and additionally in cases of abuse or serious negligence.
  5. Ability to complete eligibility after participating in a pro draft if player goes undrafted and foregoes professional participation within seven days of the draft.
  6. Due process rights.
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Ramogi Huma is reportedly helping the group of players, according to ESPN. Huma, an advocate of college athletes’ rights, played linebacker at UCLA and also serves as the founder and president of the College Athletes Players Association.

While the story published by The Players Tribune does not specify how many players are involved, one anonymous staff member at a Pac-12 program told ESPN the group could consist of hundreds of players from several different Pac-12 schools.

The Pac-12 released its 10-game, conference-only schedule for the 2020 season on Friday.

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