Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise
Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise

Pac-12 Players Demand Safety and Equality - So WSU Sent Them Home

PAC-12 football players, including those at Oregon and Utah, are threatening to opt out fall football if a list of health and social justice changes are not made by the conference and its schools.
PAC-12 football players, including those at Oregon and Utah, are threatening to opt out fall football if a list of health and social justice changes are not made by the conference and its schools.
Image: (Getty Images)

UPDATE: According to Spokesman Review’s Theo Lawson, multiple Washington State players who shared the #WeAreUnited hashtag in response to today’s Players’ Tribune article have been released for the season.

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The parents of one Washington State player, Kassidy Woods, believe he was released because he shared the hashtag on social media.

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This is a developing story.

This morning, Pac-12 athletes outlined a list of demands in The Players’ Tribune, calling on the conference to better protect the health and wellbeing of athletes in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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If players’ requests are not met by the Pac-12, these student-athletes will opt out of fall training and games.

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The missive additionally called for racial and economic justice for student-athletes, using the hashtag #WeAreUnited.

Pac 12 football players listed four major demands: health and safety, reviving cut college sports programs, ending racial injustice in college sports & society, and providing economic rights for college athletes.

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Athletes lobbying for general fairness should tell you everything you need to know about college sports’ governing body, the NCAA.

A recent report found that men’s college football and basketball athletes are worth around a million dollars by the time they graduate. Most of the players generating this level of cash for athletic departments — and being denied their fair share — are Black.

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Amid a pandemic-driven economic crisis, universities are slashing sports budgets. Stanford University, a Pac-12 school, cut eleven athletic programs due to the coronavirus. Pac-12 athletes specifically mentioned Stanford’s varsity sports cuts in their Players’ Tribune piece. Athletes called on the prestigious private school to “tap into” their $27.7 billion endowment to help reinstate cut programs.

College sports conferences, excluding the Ivy League, are still planning to play this fall. And every Pac-12 football team has already gathered for summer training. But at the University of Arizona, one football player wondered why his team was practicing when the school president said the school would not hold in-person classes if campus were to open during the state’s COVID surge.

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Although cases and deaths are starting to decrease in places like Arizona and other Pac-12 states, “back to normal” is nowhere near the horizon. California, a state with four Pac-12 schools, leads the nation in total cases and is closing in on 10,000 COVID-related deaths.

If California was a country, it would be included in the top 15 nations with the most COVID deaths.

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Pac-12 athletes, however, are ready to take a stand against a conference that wants players on campus and in the gym, at a time when most college students wonder if their classes will start online later this month.

The anonymous Pac-12 athletes who wrote this letter could inspire other conferences to write their own list of demands. Who knows if players in the ACC, Big 10, or even the SEC will begin to use the platform available to them? Sites like the Players’ Tribune and UNINTERRUPTED were created to amplify the point of view of these athletes.

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By penning an essay, Pac-12 players have demonstrated their collective power, leverage and unity.

We’ll see how the conference and NCAA respond.

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