Sources: Several Florida Gators Skip First Fall Camp Practice
Multiple sources indicated to Sports Illustrated-AllGators over the weekend that several Florida Gators football players intended to holdout of, at least, the team's first fall training camp practice today, and Gators head coach Dan Mullen confirmed that multiple players did not show up to practice on Monday in a Zoom press conference.
At least four players are confirmed to be holding out, according to sources: Wide receivers Kadarius Toney, Trevon Grimes, and Jacob Copeland, and defensive end Zachary Carter.
"We had a couple guys not practice today, but we'll see how that goes moving forward for us. But, you know, I wouldn't be surprised if you have guys opt out. I'm going to support them fully," Mullen said on Monday. "Really wouldn't be surprised if we had coaches opt-out, to be honest with you. Coaches are at such high risk because of the age group that they're in. So statistically I think coaches are probably even at a higher risk. I think when you look at those things, but we'll figure it out. We're going to adapt to whatever happens as we continue to move forward."
Mullen would not confirm the names of players who did not show, nor their reasoning, but he has communicated with them.
Pertaining to the coronavirus pandemic, players across the country have united in various movements that have ultimately led to the #WeWantToPlay movement, namely led by Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence in which numerous Florida players have supported across social media. The movement is looking forward to playing in a fall season, however, asks for expanded coronavirus protections and calls for a player's association.
Grimes, who's mother is a front-line nurse, has expressed his concerns regarding player safety and the virus, retweeting numerous reports about the spread of the disease and tweeting "Just want answers" on August 11th.
Carter has been one of Florida's most outspoken in support of the We Want to Play movement, addressing the NCAA on Twitter in July regarding basic protections and rights for athletes. Carter claims that the NCAA takes advantage of athletes and that players must utilize the current state of events an opportunity to speak up.
"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," Carter responded to a former UF women's basketball player Jordan Jones. "We are not experiments, I'm a human being just like you. Let me see you suit up then."
Florida players are not the only ones who have expressed concern over their team's individual actions as conferences are pushing towards a 2020 fall football season. Last week, Florida State wide receivers Warren Thompson and DJ Matthews claimed that the Seminoles' coaching staff had lied to them regarding COVID-19 protocols, with star receiver Tamorrion Terry's mother Cindy Rewis accusing the staff of not conducting weekly testing and instructing players who test positive to remain silent.
Multiple FSU players rushed to defend head coach Mike Norvell and the team's defense, with Norvell insisting the program has "been very open and transparent" with their coronavirus protocol in a following press conference. Thompson has since backed off of his original statement and apologized.
In recent weeks, multiple Florida players have taken to Twitter to express their frustrations over conferences and coaches' rush to play football amidst the pandemic, player compensation and representation, and national social issues involving the Black Lives Matter movement.
Toney has retweeted statements that accuse coaches and team administrators of not valuing African American players beyond the money they generate, although it is unclear if he is referring to actions by any member of Florida's coaching staff or program. Copeland has shared similar sentiments.
Widespread protests erupted across the United States during May and have sustained in some parts of the country following the death of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, among others, via police brutality in recent months, which led to movements across the NCAA with players demanding change and better social atmospheres in their sports programs. Gators head coach Dan Mullen released the following statement on June 1st, when protests began to occur in the Gainesville area.
"Together. I stand in unison with [University of Florida] president [Kent] Fuchs and former players, coaches, and all others that have used their voice to condemn racism and oppression. During these difficult times, we need unity, compassion and a love for each other more than ever. As we slowly return to the freedoms in our daily lives from this global pandemic, my hope is that we can work together towards a society with freedom, opportunity and social justice for all."
This story will be updated as more details emerge.