Earlier today Pac-12 student-athletes voiced their concerns for the upcoming season through a list of demands via The Players Tribune. Right now, over 100 Pac-12 football players are prepared to sit out the 2020 season.
While they stand united among themselves in their respective conference, one current Gators player, defensive lineman Zachary Carter stands with them, re-posting the message with the comment "enough is enough."
Using the hashtag "WeAreUnited", the message released by student-athletes is clear, they want to ensure their health and their future for playing the sport they love, while simultaneously not being afforded some basic needs in which they feel they deserve.
Due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, many players, including players within the SEC and the Pac-12, feel there need to be better precautions to ensure their health. The letter also speaks on the NCAA's message of "Black Lives Matter", while in the same breath "systematically exploiting black athletes nationwide."
"Because we are being asked to play college sports in a pandemic in a system without enforced health and safety standards, and without transparency about COVID cases on our teams, the risks to ourselves, our families, and our communities, #WeAreUnited," Pac-12 players wrote in a statement released via the Players Tribune.
Currently, the University of Florida student-athletes will still be eligible for their scholarships if they are to opt out, however that does not apply to every student-athlete in the nation. Many student-athletes across the country are also being made to sign "COVID-19 waivers", absolving the institutions of liability.
In voicing his concerns via social media, Carter had a dialogue with former Gators women's basketball player Jordan Jones (2008-2012) who replied to his original statement of standing united.
"Wow. I feel so sorry for all of these athletes who are getting a free education, free meals, monthly stipend, free healthcare, the best resources to improve academically & athletically - all while getting to play the sport they love on a national stage. Sounds terrible," said Jones.
The statement by Jones is part of why many student-athletes don't feel well-valued. Especially in the collegiate football realm. While players do have the benefit of free education, if on scholarship, along with other benefits, there are still issues within the system that do not allow them to make additional funds, and not all universities are treated equally.
As players are tasked with grueling workweeks consisting of two-a-days, film room sessions, games and classes, they're disproportionately compensated for their work. While the revenue generated by the NCAA continues to rise each year, the player's benefits appear to be stagnant, even with a global pandemic.
In a global pandemic, this only exacerbates the issues at hand. While players in Florida may soon be able to profit off of their name, image and likeness, that simply is not currently the case and has never been the case prior.
"You’re apart of the problem," Carter replied to Jordan. "We are in a global pandemic right now and our health is being put on the line so we can entertain people like you around the country. We are not experiments, I'm a human being just like you. Let me see you suit up then."
Several current Florida players, including offensive lineman Brett Heggie, wide receivers Trevon Grimes and Jacob Copeland and linebacker David Reese came out in support of Carter's statements via social media today, with Reese giving stating that players "Can’t even speak your mind and say how you feel in today’s world as an athlete without somebody sitting at home patrolling twitter waiting to put they negative sense in."
As of right now, players are at an all-time high in terms of leverage against the NCAA, where essentially the ball is in their court. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, fall collegiate athletics is hanging by a thread, the SEC recently delayed its season until Sept. 26 and will be playing in a 10-game, conference-only season. They guarantee no one's health and admit players will get sick.
As the Players Tribune statement makes the rounds, many players across several conferences will continue to make their voices heard, even while the season itself hangs in the balance. For Carter, this is a perfect opportunity and the right time to have his voice heard.
"I stand on everything I said. If you dont like it you can kindly unfollow me. Im not here to make friends im here to bring light to issues that have been going on for too long. Now more than ever is the perfect time for student athletes to be heard. Speak up."