Washington dog mascot Dubs, an Alaskan malamute, races onto the field followed by body-suit mascot Harry the Husky and cheerleaders before an NCAA college football game against Southern Cal on Saturday, Sept. 28, 2019, in Seattle. (Elaine Thompson/The Associated Press)

Washington dog mascot Dubs, an Alaskan malamute, races onto the field followed by body-suit mascot Harry the Husky and cheerleaders before an NCAA college football game against Southern Cal on Saturday, Sept. 28, 2019, in Seattle. (Elaine Thompson/The Associated Press)

Pac-12 players demand better COVID-19 measures

Also want action on pay, social issues

By Ralph D. Russo | The Associated Press

A group of Pac-12 football players say they will not practice or play until their concerns about playing during the COVID-19 pandemic and other racial and economic issues in college sports are addressed.

The players posted a statement Sunday on The Players’ Tribune website and social media with the hashtag #WeAreUnited and sent out a press release. The release listed the names of 12 Pac-12 players from nine schools, including Oregon star safety Jevon Holland, and provided a statement from each one.

It says hundreds of players throughout the Pac-12 are concerned about the risks of COVID-19 and that the conference and NCAA lack transparency, uniformity and adequate enforcement infrastructure.

The Pac-12 on Friday released a revised football schedule for the upcoming season, which, because of the pandemic, is not guaranteed to be played. The new schedule pushes the start of the season back three weeks to Sept. 26 and includes only 10 conference games. Officials across college football anticipate disruptions this season related to COVID-19. The Atlantic Coast Conference and Southeastern Conference also announced last week plans to play truncated football seasons with delayed starts.

“We believe a football season under these conditions would be reckless and put us at needless risk,” the players said in their news release. “We will not play until there is real change that is acceptable to us.

The Pac-12 also announced Friday that 20 hours per week of mandatory team activities for football, including weight training, meetings and unpadded walk-through practices, would be permitted to begin Monday. Preseason practice for Pac-12 schools can begin Aug. 17.

The states of Arizona and California, home to half the Pac-12 schools, have been hit by some of the most severe surges in COVID-19 cases over the last month. California-Berkeley has announced the fall semester will begin with all classes being taught online. USC said most of its classes will be online for the coming semester.

“Since the system is willing to risk our health and safety in the midst of the global pandemic, we must look out for each other,” Oregon State defensive back Jaydon Grant said in a statement. “With so much uncertainty around COVID, we cannot wait until it strikes the world of college football. We must act now to ensure our safety playing the game we all love, and that is why we are united.”

The players’ list of demands addresses healthy and safety protections related to COVID-19; protection for all college sports programs from being eliminated by budget cuts; racial injustice in college sports; and economic rights and compensation for college athletes.

“This is important to me because I want to see the young men that are being exploited by the PAC12 & NCAA have the right to earn money for their families,” Holland said in a statement. “I want the safety of my peers lives to be placed higher than the sport they play. If we are treated like employees then we should be compensated as such.”

Among the specifics are:

• Player-approved health and safety standards enforced by a third party selected by players to address COVID-19 and serious injury, abuse and death.

• 50 percent of a sport’s revenue distributed evenly to athletes.

• Medical insurance for six years after college.

• Reduced pay of Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott, coaches, administrators.

• 2 percent of revenue to support financial aid for low-income Black students and community initiatives.

• Use university endowment funds to protect all college sports. As an example, the players cite Stanford’s recent announcement that it will discontinue 11 varsity sports while the school has a $27 billion endowment.

The other players listed were:

Treyjohn Butler of Stanford; Jake Curhan, Joshua Drayden and Valentino Daltoso of California; Elisha Guidry of UCLA; Malik Hausman of Arizona; Dallas Hobbs of Washington State; Ty Jones and Joe Tryon of Washington and Cody Shear of Arizona State.

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