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, they threatened to sit out the 2020 college football season which the Pac-12 has slated to begin on September 26 during a pandemic.
Among the initial 12 players to organize the movement was Oregon State cornerback Jaydon Grant, who also tweeted his stance on the issue.
The redshirt junior told The Athletic that "the only reason [the conference is] rushing football back is the money."
“We saw this as a social justice issue. Because, when you look at how much they need us, the only reason they’re rushing football back is the money. I mean, it’s inevitable. And when you’re talking about risking our health and safety in a time of such uncertainty during a pandemic — and then we’re not receiving the same benefits from having the season that the ones forcing the season to go on have — then you really start to realize how much we’re being exploited collectively as college athletes.”
In the open letter, the players are demanding 50% of each sport's total revenue be evenly distributed among the athletes in that sport and "the freedom to secure representation, receive basic necessities from any third party, and earn money for use of our name, image, and likeness rights."
This isn't the first time Grant has stood up for what he believed in this summer.
In July, he helped organize a peaceful Black Lives Matter protest in West Linn where he played high school football.
Then, along with other Beaver student-athletes, he launched a new platform at Oregon State called Dam Change, which brings awareness to issues of systemic racism in today's society.
"Dam Change is important here at Oregon State to unify the institution and community in the fight against racism and inequality," Grant said in a release. "We believe Dam Change will serve to ensure that all student-athletes have a pleasant experience at Oregon State regardless of the color of their skin."
Now, he's among the movement asking for the Pac-12 to help fight racial injustices in the community.
They want to use the platform of college athletics to benefit Black students by forming a permanent civic-engagement task force comprised of players from each school, experts of their choice, and university/conference administrators to address outstanding issues such as racial injustice in college sports and in society.
Also, they demand that 2% of all conference revenue be funneled to a fund directed by players to "support financial aid for low-income Black students, community initiatives, and development programs for college athletes on each campus."
Last, the players want to form an annual "Pac-12 Black College Athlete Summit with guaranteed representation of at least three athletes of [their] choice from every school."
Despite Grant's leadership among the Pac-12 players making these demands, he tweeted that this isn't about the coaching staff at Oregon State. He actually gave credit to Jonathan Smith and his staff for doing "a tremendous job throughout this entire pandemic in creating the safest possible work environment."
On June 15, Oregon State Athletic Director Scott Barnes and Senior Associate Athletic Director for Sports Medicine Dr. Doug Aukerman held a press conference via Zoom for media members to ask questions about the school's protocol surrounding the coronavirus ahead of voluntary workouts beginning that week.
Athletes began workouts in the brand-new, 20,000 square foot facilities in groups of ten. Two groups could workout at the same time but in different sections of the facilities and all of the athlete's workouts must be confined to their specific section. All strength and conditioning staff will wear masks and gloves while in the facilities. When a group completes its workout, then the area will be cleaned before the next group of student-athletes uses the facilities.
Each athlete needed to pass a temperature test before entering the facilities and masks are required to be worn by all student-athletes and staff members while on Oregon State's campus.
When asked about if anyone had considered not returning to campus, Barnes said he couldn't recall anyone deciding to stay home rather than come back to Oregon State.
Two weeks later, the athletic department reported that one athlete tested positive but declined to specify what sport the student-athlete played.
But, Oregon State obviously has been doing its best to put the safety of the student-athlete at the top of the priority list.
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.