The coronavirus has had a massive undertaking in the sports world and nearly every professional sport has had strife between their respective players union and the league offices over COVID-19 protocols and payment disputes.
Now, that has trickled down to the collegiate level. PAC-12 players have “united” to set demands for universities in the PAC-12 for coronavirus standards, social justice reforms, and payment options for players going forward in an article penned by ‘Players of the PAC-12” to The Players’ Tribune. If these demands are not upheld, the student-athletes in the PAC-12 have threatened to not play any sports at all:
“#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 group is banded by the #WeAreUnited tagline and have encouraged other student-athletes from conferences across the country to join the movement.
“In forming alliances with college athletes from other conferences to unite with us for change, #WeAreUnited.”
The players come with some earth-shattering demands that are sure to have the NCAA and its conference concerned.
Rightfully so, the top priority for these student-athletes is the “Health and Safety Protections” they wish to be put in place due to the coronavirus. PAC-12 players insist that they have the option to opt-out without losing scholarship or position on a team, and prohibit universities from forcing waivers that waive liability. Another command is that a third-party sets the standards for the COVID-19 protocols to avoid any bias towards either side.
Next up is a biggie, and that is guaranteeing the protection of all sports enabled by universities. Cuts of athletic programs have been made by some of the most prolific institutions in the country including Stanford and the University of Cincinnati. The PAC-12 player cited Stanford’s cuts while the institution sits on “their $27.7 billion endowment (fund).” #WeAreUnited believes the school should dip into that fund to pay off the losses due to the coronavirus instead of defunding programs. They also call for “voluntary and drastically reduced excessive pay” from the coaches, administrators, and PAC-12 commissioner Larry Scott.
Next is a call to “end racial injustice in college sports and society”. PAC-12 players request task forces to be made up of people of their choosing to “address outstanding issues such as racial injustice in college sports and in society.” They also command that 2% of conference revenue go to supporting low-income black students at these colleges and the surrounding community.
#WeAreUnited claims that “unjust rules prevent the 98% of college football and basketball players who won’t go pro from capitalizing economically on what would otherwise be the most valuable years of our lives, including many Black players from low-income homes”
This is why the players tag on the most polarizing conversation that has been had for eons between student-athletes and the NCAA, “economic freedom and equity”. Players demand medical insurance, the right to “earn money for name, image, likeness, and reputation”, and a right to “50% of each sport’s total conference revenue (be distributed) evenly among athletes in their respective sports.”
PAC-12 players also demand that the conference eliminate “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.”
Going further, the players urge the conference to give more power to the players and where they want to play. This follows a similar note Jim Harbaugh wrote to the NCAA that would allow one time transfers without any repercussions and additional transfer privilege in abusive situations, and allow players the opportunity to return to their university after going undrafted within seven days of their respective drafts.
Right now this sits only with the PAC-12 conference players and some who have shared the article on social media have already been dismissed from their teams. Theo Lawson reports that:
Am told multiple other #WSU players who shared the "#WeAreUnited" graphics have been released from the team, as well. https://t.co/OA0Hg3aroo— Theo Lawson (@TheoLawson_SR) August 2, 2020
Most of this has been received well by fans, analysts, and reporters of the sport, but some of these things are clearly too lofty of asks. Nevertheless, this is a huge roadblock for the PAC-12 and if it gains momentum it could shift the tides of collegiate sports altogether.