Cal O-Lineman Valentino Daltoso Pleased With Progress Made by #WeAreUnited

There's More Change to Come, Daltoso Believes, Including Clarity on NLI Issues
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The list of demands made by Pac-12 football players who formed the #WeAreUnited group last summer seemed overly ambitious and not altogether realistic.

There was no chance, for instance, that athletes were going to secure a 50-percent cut of all conference revenue.

But shooting high is the nature of negotiation, which then involves discussion, compromise and, hopefully, progress.

Cal offensive lineman Valentino Daltoso, who was part of the original player group, is pleased with what has been achieved so far and expects more progress to come.

“Looking back, I think there were a lot of things you can pick up from it that were really successful,” Daltoso said last weekend when asked to comment on the state of things eight months later.

“First and foremost, securing COVID protection, scholarship protections, standardized testing across the conference. Before we asked for those things it was kind of just every school for themselves. Securing those things for us was huge.”

The Pac-12 initially canceled its fall sports season, including football. Then the football schedule was reinstated, albeit delayed and shortened, and it came with a conference-wide testing program and other protocols designed to try to keep athletes safe from the spreading COVID-19 pandemic.

Likewise, the Pac-12 eventually announced that all fall and winter sport athletes would be given the opportunity to re-do their season, adding an additional year of athletic eligibility to their clock.

The #WeAreUnited group of athletes introduced themselves on Aug. 2 in this post on The Players Tribune, and laid out a substantial list of issues they demanded be addressed.

Some of them remain out of reach, at least for now. But others, including the name, image, likeness (NLI) issue, which gives athletes the freedom to market themselves, are being discussed and debated across the country, including by lawmakers.

"I think we played a big role, meeting with senators . . . and were a real catalyst for introducing bills, such as the College Athlete Bill of Rights,” Daltoso said.

Just last month, Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) introduced a new bill, the College Athlete Economic Freedom Act, which — if passed — would provide athletes the freedom to "make money off their Name, Image and Likeness with the fewest restrictions possible.”

Sen. Murphy’s bill would supersede NCAA legislation expected to be passed this summer, which would provide athletes with NLI rights but cap their earning power. Murphy’s proposal would remove that cap through federal law.

These discussions were coming way or the other, but the #WeAreUnited player push perhaps helped accelerate the timetable.

“And I think that’s not where it’s going to stop.,” said Daltoso, who expects to see revenue-sharing with athletes in some form down the line. “I think in the future there’s going to be a lot more dominoes that are going to fall and I think name-image likeness is a huge one.”

Daltoso, who just completed spring practice leading to his senior season next fall, said he continues to have conversations with athletes at Cal and throughout the country about these issues. He hopes that what he and others — including teammate Josh Drayden and recently graduated Cal lineman Jake Curhan — did last summer provides others with some confidence that change can happen.

Daltoso talked with a lot of fellow athletes last summer who shared his positions on issues but had concerns about potential repercussions if they spoke out.

“Yeah, I think 100 percent. That was a huge thing when dealing with a lot of guys,” Daltoso said. “I’d say most everybody — 90 percent of the people we ever talked to — were all on board. They understood where we were coming from and were in support.

“But I think that (concern) was a big part. It was really unique having so many guys coming together and kind of standing on that platform together, advocating for those things because nothing is guaranteed,” he said. "Kind of putting yourself out there can be dangerous and I know a lot of people didn’t want to do that.

“Moving forward, I really hope it sets the standard for more change to happen. And for that to come from the players is really important.”

Follow Jeff Faraudo of Cal Sports Report on Twitter: @jefffaraudo