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

Pac-12 Football Players Use Their Platforms To Promote #WeAreUnited Message, Demand Better Treatment

Washington State University football players are among the Pac-12 athletes demanding change.
Washington State University football players are among the Pac-12 athletes demanding change.
Photo: Getty

Since the #WeAreUnited letter released via the Players’ Tribune, Pac-12 players have come out to publicly support the letter written by a collection of conference athletes.

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Within hours of the article’s release, however, news broke of Washington State head coach, Nick Rolovich, having a “problem” with redshirt sophomore Kassidy Woods joining the unity movement. Woods opted out of the season over the weekend due to a medical condition.

In a statement after the Woods story went viral, Rolovich apologized for how he handled the situation. “I regret that my words cautioning Kassidy have become construed as opposition. I’m proud of our players and all the Pac-12 student-athletes for using their platform, especially for matters they are passionate about. WSU football student-athletes who have expressed support for the #WeAreUnited group will continue to be welcome to all team-related activities, unless they choose to opt out for health and safety reasons.”

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Since the TPT piece dropped, Pac-12 football players, specifically, have used their platforms to voice their frustrations about playing in a pandemic.

“We don’t feel right just getting sent out as lab rats for this disease,” Jaydon Grant, a redshirt junior at Oregon State University told Fox 12 Oregon.

Grant, who earned a scholarship after 3 years at OSU, wants to play football, as do most of his teammates. But the defensive back also wonders why the team has to rush back to the field when his own campus is planning to offer remote and online course options this fall.

“The big question is why. Why are we being rushed back? Why can’t [the season] be delayed?” He asks. “I think we all know the answer.”

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(Hint: unpaid men’s college basketball and football players are worth millions of dollars to their universities).

University of Arizona wide receiver, Jaden Mitchell, spoke out via Twitter because he knows the dangers of COVID-19. He had it. The young, healthy, D1 college athlete had the virus for three weeks and called it “no joke.”

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“I lost 14 pounds and am still working on gaining it back and reconditioning myself,” Mitchell tweeted. “The fact of the matter is that if this virus gets ahold of you and you experience symptoms, it will have a great impact on you.”

Having had coronavirus, Mitchell understands how transmissible it can be. It’s why he’s concerned about the possibility of just one teammate getting infected.

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“There are so many possibilities in a sport where 100+ people are in a locker room, 70+ players travel, add on coaches, staff, trainers, and more and I don’t see how that will work. We are physically touching each other every single snap. On top of that we are getting paid $0 risking our health for people’s entertainment.”

Mitchell, too, wants to play this season. But he wants “players, coaches, fans, and everyone to realize the severity of not only the pandemic, but also the [racial and economic] injustice” of college sports.

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University of Washington’s, Elijah Molden, also wants to play football and make sure medical protocols are executed properly. “Us players need to have our voices heard. We need to stand up for ourselves and our loved ones, especially under the circumstances we are currently in.” To the defensive back, both player health and playing football can still be prioritized. In his Twitter post, he urged followers to stray away from “reacting quickly,” and to “consider the entire situation … see both sides and remember that the situation isn’t binary. This way we can actually see some change and implement procedures that protect us players. Then we can FINALLY play some damn football.”

Although these Pac-12 athletes share their own, individual thoughts on their social media feeds, they know that together, they can turn a list of demands into lasting change.

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“The way to affect change and the way to get your voice heard is to affect the bottom line” Cal offensive lineman, Valentino Daltoso, told Sports Illustrated. “Our power as players comes from being together. The only way to do this is to do something collectively.”

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