Hundreds of Pac-12 college football players demanded their voices be heard Sunday morning when they released an open letter to their conference via the Player's Tribune titled "#WeAreUnited."
Inside, they made demands including the ability to receive payments, safety during the coronavirus pandemic, and greater racial justice policies. If the conference decides to not comply, then they threatened to sit out the 2020 college football season which the Pac-12 has slated to begin on September 26 during a pandemic.
“We’re not your entertainment, we’re human beings,” Oregon safety Jevon Holland, who was one of the twelve original organizers of the protest, told Sports Illustrated. “Just like you would help your family, we want to help our mother, father, grandmother, everyone.
“We don’t know the long term risks. We have no idea how it’s going to affect our body regardless if we show symptoms or not. I refuse to put my health at risk for somebody else’s benefit.”
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High up on the list of concerns from the group of players is the Pac-12 conference's desire to play games this fall despite the United States undergoing its worst pandemic since 1918.
Among the list of demands, the players want insurance selected by the players "for sports-related medical conditions, including COVID- 19 illness" that will last until six years after NCAA eligibility ends, the option to opt-out of the upcoming season without fear of losing athletic eligibility, scholarship, or a roster spot, all COVID-19 agreements that waive liability to be prohibited or voided, and safety standards approved by them that are enforced by a third party to "address COVID-19, as well as serious injury, abuse and death."
However, many Ducks players came out in support of head coach Mario Cristobal, who himself has stressed that safety is the top priority for the Oregon football program since the cancellation of the spring game back in March up to present day.
Holland sent out the initial tweet praising Cristobal and the Oregon coaching/medical staff for keeping its players safe.
If you want to Follow anyones lead on how to take care and make sure players are safe. Follow Coach Cristobal & Oregon Football/Medical. They are doing things right and making sure we are safe @pac12— Vón🧞 (@HollywoodVon) August 2, 2020
Johnny Johnson III and Cyrus Habidi-Likio retweeted Holland's comments and adding additional support for the Ducks head coach and his staff.
I agree. @coach_cristobal & staff have all been doing an amazing job keeping us safe. They want the best for us and I am at ease knowing they will do anything to make sure our health is priority. https://t.co/rhJ9IewjFJ— Cyrus Habibi-Likio (@cyri3e) August 2, 2020
Additionally, cornerback Verone Mckinley III echoed his teammates' sentiment.
#WeAreUnited. We want to play football safely. Here at Oregon, @coach_cristobal and our coaches, medical/training staff have done a phenomenal job. Other schools should emulate our protocols and #BeLikeOregon.— Verone McKinley III (@vmckinley3) August 2, 2020
Holland and Habidi-Likio also thanked Oregon athletic trainer Travis Halseth.
We appreciate you guys Trav!— Vón🧞 (@HollywoodVon) August 2, 2020
Appreciate you too big guy....I know there are more questions than answers right now but we appreciate you guys engaging in the dialogue and following all the new protocols we are implementing. ✊🏻— Travis Halseth (@THalseth10) August 2, 2020
It's easy to see why.
In an appearance on Fox's Big Noon Kickoff earlier this week, Ducks head coach Mario Cristobal hinted that the Ducks haven't had a positive test yet for the coronavirus.
"We've been here now a total of seven and a half, coming up on eight weeks and our processes have been flawless. We don't publicly put our results out there but I think the best way to say [it] is that we have been flawless in our processes and our results."
As for those processes in place to keep the student-athletes of Oregon safe, Cristobal said he "can't imagine anyone having anything better out there but we're always researching. We're always digging. We're always looking for information good and bad out there. Anything that can affect us in a positive way. Anything that can help us enhance our processes."
Despite the processes appearing to be working perfectly, Cristobal and his staff are always trying to better it because the safety of his players is the top priority.
"It's as simple as that. Is it safe or is it not? If it is, then okay, let's try this. And if it's it not, then there's no point," said Cristobal.
On Friday, the Pac-12 unveiled a new, ten-game, conference only schedule for each team that will begin on September 26.
Will it get played? We'll see.
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