Pac-12's #WeAreUnited Player Group Asks for 'Faster Timeline' amid COVID-19

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistAugust 4, 2020

FILE - This Aug. 29, 2019, file photo shows the Pac-12 logo at Sun Devil Stadium during the second half of an NCAA college football game between Arizona State and Kent State in Tempe, Ariz. The Pac-12 has become the second major conference to shift to a conference-only fall schedule amid growing concerns over the coronavirus pandemic. (AP Photo/Ralph Freso, File)
Ralph Freso/Associated Press

Members of the Pac-12's #WeAreUnited campaign wrote a response to conference commissioner Larry Scott to signal their desire "to move on a faster timeline than you have proposed," according to ESPN's Kyle Bonagura.

Scott wrote to the players that he was going to meet with officials from member schools and return to discussions with #WeAreUnited later in the week, per Sports Illustrated's Ross Dellenger.

Bonagura shared a portion of #WeAreUnited's response: "We are two weeks from fall camp and would like to work to come to a resolution so that we can play this season. Every day that we don't have discussions puts players at additional risk of COVID."

The Pac-12 players made their demands public on The Players' Tribune. Among their requests are stronger health protections amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the opportunity to be compensated for their name, image and likeness, and a pay reduction for Scott, Pac-12 administrators and coaches.

The Undefeated's Bomani Jones spoke to players involved in the movement and explained how it represents the confluence of multiple structural issues that are front and center for college athletes.

Andrew Cooper is a graduate student who runs cross country at Cal and had previously run for Washington State. He spoke to Jones about the moment at which he became determined to be more active in effecting change.

Cooper attended a Pac-12 council meeting where Kate Fagan, then a writer for ESPN, recounted the story of former Penn distance runner Madison Holleran, who died by suicide in 2014.

"I'm looking around and some of these [athletic directors] are typing on their laptops," Cooper said of what he saw during the speech. "And I said, 'Oh, OK, no one's trying to change anything.' Athletes care so much that we create initiatives on top of being overwhelmed. Through being in the rooms, I learned that systemic change will not happen within the system."

The #WeAreUnited members said in The Players' Tribune piece they're prepared to opt out of the Pac-12's fall camp and competitive games unless the conference is prepared to make changes addressing their demands.

The Dallas Morning News' Sam Blum shared the transcript of a conversation between Washington State head coach Nick Rolovich and Cougars wide receiver Kassidy Woods. Woods indicated he was planning to take part in the unity movement, to which Rolovich responded that "that’s gonna be an issue if you align with them as far as future stuff, cause the COVID stuff is one thing."

Rolovich subsequently issued a statement saying his words had been misconstrued and that anybody who supports the unity movement "will continue to be welcome at all team-related activities."