Cal Football: The Season May Be Alive, But What About the #WeAreUnited Movement?
Less than two weeks after a group of Pac-12 football players formed the #WeAreUnited coalition to make demands of the league office in early August, the conference postponed its fall season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Football may return this fall, after all. We expect to find out Thursday when the conference presidents meet to vote on the matter.
But we haven’t heard much lately from the players or the conference about the initiative that commanded everyone’s attention before the season was shut down.
Do the ambitions of #WeAreUnited still have a heartbeat?
“I think it will still continue,” Cal senior outside linebacker Cameron Goode. “It’s definitely a movement, not a moment.”
*** Here's more from Cameron Goode on the #WeAreUnited:
“I think the #WeAreUnited is still rolling,” Bears quarterback Chase Garbers agreed. “Because there’s no football doesn’t mean that what we’re looking for has stopped.”
The #WeAreUnited group was led by 18 players from throughout the Pac-12, including offensive lineman Jake Curhan and Valentino Daltoso of Cal.
Their demands, backed by the threatened leverage of a possible player boycott, covered a range of topics, many of them associated with today’s headline issues.
They expressed health concerns, and asked for safety protocols and for health insurance extended six years beyond their playing days to cover anything sports-related, including COVID-19.
They wanted the promise of an extra year of eligibility for anyone who opted out of the season over those same health concerns.
The demands featured several specific to racial injustice, starting with the formation of a permanent civic engagement task force made up of player leaders and experts of their choice, along with university and conference administrators, to address issues including racial injustice in college sports and in society.
And they sought economic freedoms, including the right to secure representation and earn money from use of their name, image or likeness rights. They also made the bold demand for a 50-percent share each sports’ total conference revenue, to be distributed among athletes in their respective sports.
Not all of the issues carried the same urgency, Goode explained.
"The two biggest things we wanted were the eligibility, of course, and the safety protocols,” Goode said. “I definitely feel like that put some pressure on the (Pac-12) officials to make that happen.”
Schools in the conference have worked in concert to create safe environments for players, and the Pac-12 secured a partnership with a company that will provide rapid-response antigen tests to be administered daily. That development is central to the league’s movement toward reinstating a fall season.
Likewise, the NCAA has granted players the freedom to opt-out and retain a year of eligibility, and is close to passing name, image and likeness legislation.
*** Chase Garbers talks more extensively on the topic:
“Certain demands have been met or are close to being met,” Garbers said. “And I think with football starting back up it might be a little more public what’s going to happen with that.”
But Pac-12 officials dug in their heels on the demand to share revenue, an ambitious goal, even if it seems reasonable on some level given that athletes take all the physical risks and are the reason TV and fans pay for games.
Goode suggested the timetable of approaching the Pac-12 just before the scheduled start of training camp made it unlikely progress could be made immediately on all fronts.
“We knew we weren’t going to get it all right now,” he said. “It’s definitely a process . . . get the conversations going, really. Put some pressure on.”
Garbers isn’t discouraged that the players haven’t gotten a commitment for every item on the #WeAreUnited checklist.
“They were great ideas to demand. I think it was a negotiation tactic to ask for that big of a list and try to see what you can get out of it, as the other party would obviously negotiate,” he said. “I think the people who put out that statement were very intelligent and knew what they were doing.”
Negotiations often take time, and it’s easy to envision the timetable extended by the pandemic and the fiscal crunch athletic departments are feeling as a result.
It’s likely many of today’s college players won’t reap all the benefits of the #WeAreUnited push.
"Hopefully,” Goode said, “we’ll make a difference in the long run.”
Follow Jeff Faraudo of Cal Sports Report on Twitter: @jefffaraudo
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