The message is simple, yet eloquent.
Brilliant, yet understandable.
The Pac-12 Football Players want to be heard. They want to be protected. And dammit, they have every right to do so.
As reports break on the players perhaps opting out of the 2020 college football season now that the schedules have been released, their message should certainly not be lost: This is not just for 2020, this is forever.
The #WeAreUnited mission, though rooted in the demands to be safe and protected during the 2020 season while they would have to play football through a global pandemic, is actually much more than that.
It’s about future generations.
It’s about injustices sustained by college football student-athletes present, and past.
It’s about unnecessary spending on the backs of collegiate student-athletes.
It’s about equality.
It’s about what’s fair.
It isn’t just about football either, though most will drive it as a football headline. It’s about so much more than players opting out of the 2020 college football season.
It’s about protecting and benefiting both scholarship and walk-on student-athletes now, tomorrow and into the future.
The mission, #WeAreUnited, is important not to be lost. As major news outlets search for the ‘clickiest,’ most-searchable headlines that often involve skewing the mission’s mantra, it’s vital for the message not to be lost. This isn’t about this season, this isn’t about college football players opting not to play because of the coronavirus.
This is forever.
This is about the protection and preservation of collegiate athletics for 2020 and beyond.
You may have read multiple headlines about their lists of demands, but until you hear it from the student-athletes themselves, you can’t trust everything you read in the media.
And for that reason, here are their official demands from their release, in an attempt to unify the Pac-12, student-athletes, staffs and suits.
Pac-12 Football Unity Demands
To Protect and Benefit Both Scholarship and Walk-On Athletes
I. Health & Safety Protections
1. Allow option not to play during the pandemic without losing athletics eligibility or spot on our team’s roster.
2. Prohibit/void COVID-19 agreements that waive liability.
Mandatory Safety Standards, Including COVID-19 Measures
1. Player-approved health and safety standards enforced by a third party selected by players to address COVID-19, as well as serious injury, abuse and death.
II. Protect All Sports
Preserve All Existing Sports by Eliminating Excessive Expenditures
1. Larry Scott, administrators, and coaches to voluntarily and drastically reduce excessive pay.
2. End performance/academic bonuses.
3. End lavish facility expenditures and use some endowment funds to preserve all sports.*
*As an example, Stanford University should reinstate all sports discontinued by tapping into their $27.7 billion endowment.
III. End Racial Injustice in College Sports and Society
1. 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.
2. In partnership with the Pac-12, 2% of conference revenue would be directed by players to support financial aid for low-income Black students, community initiatives, and development programs for college athletes on each campus.
3. Form annual Pac-12 Black College Athlete Summit with guaranteed representation of at least three athletes of our choice from every school.
IV. Economic Freedom and Equity
Guaranteed Medical Expense Coverage
1. Medical insurance selected by players for sports-related medical conditions, including COVID- 19 illness, to cover six years after college athletics eligibility ends.
Name, Image, and Likeness Rights & Representation
1. The freedom to secure representation, receive basic necessities from any third party, and earn money for use of our name, image, and likeness rights.
Fair Market Pay, Rights, & Freedoms
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
We, as viewers, fans and reporters of the sport, have a responsibility. We must protect and preserve these student-athletes. We have a responsibility for these players. These students.
This isn’t just about 2020.
This is forever.
And don’t just take it from me. Take it from the players who spoke with Sports Illustrated on the movement.
Players like California Golden Bears offensive lineman Valentino Daltoso:
“The coronavirus has put a spotlight on a lot of the injustices in college athletics,” Daltoso told SI. “The way to affect change and the way to get your voice heard is to affect the bottom line. Our power as players comes from being together. The only way to do this is to do something collectively.”
Or players like UCLA Bruins DB Elisha Guidry:
“We’re trying to empower the lives of our teammates, change their lives and change the trajectory of their families’ lives,” Guidry told SI. “Especially Black lives. That’s who mostly make up these sports, and are disproportionately affected by the pandemic.”
Or Oregon Ducks All-American S Jevon Holland:
“We’re not your entertainment, we’re human beings,” Holland told SI. “Just like you would help your family, we want to help our mother, father, grandmother, everyone. We don’t know the long-term risks. We have no idea how it’s going to affect our body regardless if we show symptoms or not. I refuse to put my health at risk for somebody else’s benefit.”
This isn’t just about 2020.
This is forever.
It just so happens to fall in the calendar year 2020, with a given backdrop of perhaps one of the most unprecedented years in World History. It falls in 2020 and lands squarely in between a national civil rights movement and amid a global pandemic in which the players were absurdly supposed to play through without thoughtful precautions, guidelines and care.
While we’ve known for a long time now that the NCAA has absolutely marginalized their student-athletes who make millions for their institutions, the COVID-19 pandemic certainly exacerbates the situation. The NCAA had months to figure out a plan for the 2020 season and yet the month in which the season was supposed to start finally rolled around, no real plan of health guidelines were put in place.
And while no guidelines have been put in place by the NCAA, the players took it upon themselves to ensure not just they were safe in 2020, but forever. Their list of unity demands are but the opening stanza to what should hopefully be negotiations with the conference, with the NCAA.
Their list of demands, of course, isn’t just limited to the coronavirus, but pertain to life before, during and after collegiate athletics. It involves the preservation of non-revenue sports, it creates a racial injustice task force, guaranteed medical coverage as well as fair-market pay and their own name, image and likeness rights.
Like it has been said, this isn’t just about 2020.
This is forever.