Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott is open to holding dialogue with a group of league football players who are threatening to boycott the 2020 football season, according to a letter that Scott sent the group Monday. Sports Illustrated obtained a copy of the two-page letter, which Scott wrote in response to the #WeAreUnited campaign’s letter Sunday.
Pac-12 officials are reviewing #WeAreUnited’s list of demands and documents, Scott says in the 1,400-word response, sent at 7 p.m. ET Monday. “We are eager to hear more about your concerns and very happy to discuss,” Scott writes. “I will come back to you in the coming days following discussion with our members and student-athlete leaders to schedule a call for this week to discuss the matters that you have raised.”
A Pac-12 spokesman declined comment Monday evening when contacted about the letter.
Sports Illustrated also obtained a copy of the email that #WeAreUnited sent to Scott on Sunday, detailing its demands and requesting “daily” Zoom meetings with Scott, Pac-12 athletic directors and the #WeAreUnited player representative team. The group requested the Zoom meetings begin Monday evening. “We believe a football season under these conditions would be reckless and put us at needless risk,” their email to Scott reads. “The lack of regard for our health and safety is central to the systemic racial injustices imposed by NCAA sports that disproportionately exploits Black athletes physically, academically, and financially.”
The letter was signed by 11 players, each from a different league school. The only program not represented was the University of Colorado. Scott addressed his response to the 11 players: Dallas Hobbs, Washington State; Cody Shear, Arizona State; Jaydon Grant, Oregon State; Valentino Daltoso, Cal; Chase Williams, USC; Elijah Higgins, Stanford; Jevon Holland, Oregon; Joe Tryon, Washington; Malik Hausman, Arizona; Nick Ford, Utah; and Otito Ogbonnia, UCLA.
The health of athletes is the league’s “No. 1 priority,” Scott writes in his letter. “For this reason we have made clear on July 10 that that any student-athlete who chooses not to return to competition for health or safety reasons will have their scholarship protected and will remain in good standing with their team. We support any student-athlete who chooses to opt out for health and safety reasons.”
In regard to many of the players’ demands, Scott cites multiple initiatives that the Pac-12 has championed over the years, including the Pac-12’s policy for (1) providing medical care for athletes four years beyond their eligibility, which is “twice as many years of coverage as any other major conference,” the letter says; (2) allowing any former player to use the remainder of their scholarship to return to campus to complete a degree; (3) against schools canceling scholarships because of poor performance; and (4) to require schools to have mental health services available to all athletes.
The letter also cites the unlimited meals that Pac-12 schools provide their athletes. The league supports two initiatives important to the #WeAreUnited group, Scott's letter states, including a modification of the transfer rule to allow players to play immediately and the passage of a uniform legislation to allow players to profit from their name, image and likeness. No Pac-12 school is requiring athletes to sign a liability waiver to begin workouts, Scott writes in the letter.
He also touches on the Black Lives Matter movement across the country, one that has filtered into college sports. “The Pac-12 has a long history of supporting student-athlete voices and initiatives on social justice,” he writes. “On July 1, the Pac-12 announced a series of next steps to combat racism and support social justice, including (i) a newly-created head of diversity & inclusion position at the Conference, (ii) the formation of a social justice & anti-racism advisory group that includes student-athlete representatives, and (iii) the launch of series of student-athlete & coach anti-racism forums.”
Scott ends the letter by writing that the league will find a time later this week for a meeting.