Pac-12 CFB Player Group Threatens Opt-Out over Racial Injustice, COVID-19 Safety

Blake SchusterAnalyst IIAugust 1, 2020

PAC-12 logo at Sun Devil Stadium during second half of an NCAA college football game between Arizona State and Kent State, Thursday, Aug. 29, 2019, in Tempe, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ralph Freso)
Ralph Freso/Associated Press

A group featuring potentially "hundreds" of Pac-12 football players are reportedly preparing to announce a boycott of training camps and games this season as they look to secure a written agreement with the conference ensuring health protections, benefits and a commitment to fighting racial injustice on campus. 

ESPN's Adam Rittenberg and Mark Schlabach note players from Cal, Oregon, Stanford, UCLA and more are involved in the effort and plan to release a "statement of unity" laying out their demands as soon as Sunday morning.

In a statement to ESPN, the Pac-12 says it has yet to hear from the group and welcomes players using their platforms to promote change:

"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."

The players are reportedly working with former UCLA linebacker Ramogi Huma, founder and executive director of the National College Players Association. Huma was previously involved with a failed effort by Northwestern University football players to unionize in 2014. 

Pac-12 players are expected to meet with team leaders Saturday to discuss opting out. 

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Per Rittenberg and Schlabach: 

"The group's list of demands, according to the text message, includes safe play amid the pandemic, fighting racial injustice, securing economic rights and fair compensation, protecting all sports and obtaining long-term health insurance.

"... Among the players' concerns are that they are being brought back to campus for practices and games when a handful of Pac-12 schools, including Cal, UCLA and USC, have told most, if not all, of the student body to stay home and take classes online this fall because of the coronavirus pandemic. Stanford is bringing only half of its undergraduates back to campus for the fall quarter."

The Pac-12 has already made significant adjustments to its 2020 football season and will only play in-conference games. Players are expected to report for training camps beginning August 3, with practices beginning August 17.