The COVID-19 pandemic apparently isn’t the only threat to the 2020 Pac-12 Conference football season. The threat of a player boycott also is developing.
A message circulated among Pac-12 players at a variety of schools, including Cal according to sources, said an announcement will come Monday with player demands that range from safe play during the pandemic and addressing racial injustice to specifics that include financial compensation, long-term health insurance and protection from sports being cut.
Headed by #WEARE UNITED and PAC-12 FOOTBALL UNITY, the communication says, “We are unifying Pac-12 football players to opt-out of all Pac-12 fall camps and football games until our negotiations with the Pac-12 end.”
The flyer asks that players keep the news to themselves. “This contains highly sensitive information. Please do not share with anyone that is not on a Pac-12 football team.”
News of the movement comes just after the Pac-12 announced on Friday its revised schedule of conference-only games, set to begin on Sept. 26. Fall training camps can get under way as early as Aug. 17.
All of that is jeopardized by the coronavirus pandemic, which shows no signs of receding. But players, concerned for their health and tuned into the Black Lives Matter movement that gained nationwide momentum after the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis policeman, now are mobilized to do more than protest.
The message sent to Pac-12 players identifies the motivation for making these demands:
“Our goal is to obtain a written contract with the Pac-12 that legally ensures we are offered the following benefits:
Ensure safe play during Covid-19
Fight racial injustice
Secure economic rights & fair compensation
Protect all sports
Obtain long term health insurance
The flyer said the group plans to publicly share its thoughts and demands Monday through social media, including The Players Tribune.
ESPN received a statement from the Pac-12 on the issue:
"Neither the Conference nor our university athletics departments have been contacted by this group regarding these topics. We support our student-athletes using their voice, and have regular communications with our student-athletes at many different levels on a range of topics.
“As we have clearly stated with respect to our fall competition plans, we are, and always will be, directed by medical experts, with the health, safety and well being of our student athletes, coaches and staff always the first priority. We have made it clear that any student athlete who chooses not to return to competition for health or safety reasons will have their scholarship protected.”
ESPN further reported that a person familiar with the campaign said players from Cal, Oregon, Stanford and UCLA and other schools are involved. The source said at least a few of the league's head coaches were aware of the potential boycott and have independently gauged their teams' involvement, which reportedly is different from campus to campus.
Follow Jeff Faraudo of Cal Sports Report on Twitter: @jefffaraudo
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