Letter from Pac-12 football players – Key takeaways from an unprecedented milestone


A group of Pac-12 football players wrote a letter to the conference threatening to withdraw from fall camp and participation in games unless the league meets its safety requirements during the coronavirus pandemic , as well as economic and social problems.In the letter, a The Players’ Tribune article titled “#WeAreUnited,” players call for safety precautions amid the pandemic, medical insurance for six years after eligibility ends, a standing task force of civic engagement to address issues of social injustice, and for the league to fairly distribute 50% of the total revenue from each conference sport among athletes in their respective sports.

What does this mean for college football and the wider college sports landscape? Our editors have broken down the key takeaways from the player letter.

Tom VanHaaren: Student-athletes feel they have a voice and should have a seat at the table now. In the past, they had to come to terms with the status quo and in some cases were afraid to speak out about issues they faced on campus or within their own athletic departments. There has been a strong sense of unity in how the student-athletes feel they should have a say in how they are treated. It’s not what they are asking for, but that they speak up for themselves and say they want fair treatment and no longer want to feel like their best interests are not being considered. .

Some of the demands of the letter are lofty, but the essence of the letter – that they feel they are not being treated well and deserve more – shows that it is a new era in varsity athletics.

Adam Rittenberg: The organization of this push and the specificity of certain requests underline how this is a historic moment for varsity athletes who are defending themselves. These Pac-12 players are enjoying a time when they and others have never had more influence, as the sport tries to make a shoe in a mid-season football season. a global pandemic. The key will be knowing which requests or areas have priority over others.

For example, guaranteed medical coverage six years after eligibility expires is extremely important and achievable. The same goes for the elements around name, image and likeness, and the flexibility of transfer and return to school depending on professional sports projects. The Pac-12 is already the most progressive Power 5 conference out there, so clever demands around racial justice also seem achievable.

The 50-50 income split will obviously be the most controversial, especially when players demand the reinstatement of sports guaranteed financial losers. But it’s clear that a lot of thought and planning went into putting this together. It will be interesting to see if groups from other leagues follow.

Harry Lyles Jr .: The racial justice movement in college football still has a lot of momentum and is the motivator for Pac-12 players. While there are many other demands listed, they are preceded by frustration with racial injustice in sport. Players who threaten not to play are usually the only power they have over a school or the NCAA, and doing so on a united front will give them some of what they want. It will be a negotiation – they likely won’t get everything they want, as the NCAA and its member schools are used to getting around these issues.

Much of the conversation on this will be about player compensation, but the motivation behind it – racial justice – stands out to me. And if there ever was a time for change, it’s in today’s climate, and the players are playing fine by asking for just about anything in this first round of negotiations.

Dave Wilson: This is the moment we’ve been waiting for a long time when it comes to players realizing the power of their collective, and it will force an account in college sports. While this is both jarring and daring, the demands of the Pac-12 players are also a reaction to years of hard work and gradual change, and it has become clear that players won’t wait to see the sequel.

This offseason, we’ve seen athletes leading some big changes, including using their platforms to get names of racist figures stripped from campus buildings. In another case in Texas, a similar push led to a slew of new pledges, and the family of a major recall requested his name be removed from the field in order to honor legends Earl Campbell and Ricky Williams instead. .

This Pac-12 movement is big enough not to be ignored, whether by member schools or other conferences. We have all heard in the offseason how crucial college football is to the budgets of athletics departments. The same goes for the actors who make up its workforce. This is a watershed moment for college sports.

Bill Connelly: My main conclusion is that Kain Colter and Northwestern were playing well. When they tried to unionize in 2014-2015, they followed the rules that existed for them and made what could only be described as reasonable demands – long term health care, assurances that their rights education would not be derailed by injury, more reasonable transfer rules, more effective aid to increase graduation rates, higher and more realistic scholarship amounts, etc. They even approached only indirectly the name, the image and the likeness.

But the union was crushed; they were treated like money-seeking usurpers, and six and a half years after they started their union attempt, the only claim that has been reasonably addressed is the cost of participation. The way the world tends to work, when a population that has been retained asks nicely and isn’t going anywhere, people end up coming back in force. The Pac-12 roster has a lot more strength and potentially a larger number of players involved. The can can only be thrown on the road for such a long time.

David Hale: I would certainly echo the push towards organizing, which is at the heart of what’s going on here. But in the micro sense, the letter from the Pac-12 players shows clear concern about leadership motivations. Are Potential Brokers pushing to gamble because they think it’s safe or because they need the income? The players are clearly concerned that it is the latter.

Yes, there are plenty of reasons players have come together on a number of critical issues, from revenue sharing to name, image and likeness, but the timing clearly highlights the lack of trust. schools, conferences and the NCAA. player health at the top of their priority list. So while discussions about paying players can be a much bigger battle, both in terms of politics and public relations, the push for better health and safety oversight is one that players have. can – and should – win. Once that domino falls, the next steps are much easier.

Alex Scarborough: It’s a wonder, really, why it took so long to reach this boiling point. For over 50 years, the power structure in college sports has remained roughly the same. It wasn’t until 2018 that the transfer portal arrived and we saw players gain an ounce of tangible leverage. Even then, the game was against them in favor of wealthy coaches and administrators. Think about it: five years ago, those same players couldn’t eat all-you-can-eat meals and snacks on campus without bumping into regulations. Snacks!

And it’s with all of that in mind that I wonder why in the world the NCAA and Power 5 conferences didn’t come out decades ago? Couldn’t they see that giving a little bit of amateur fairy tale could save big in the long run? After all, why fight so hard against name, image, and likeness when victory was so easy? It will literally cost them nothing and yet millions of dollars have been spent to fight it. They cried on a slippery slope when in fact it was they who created these conditions. By not listening, by not compromising, by not giving an inch, they one day put themselves in the position of asking players what must look like a mile.

Andrea Adelson: I’m grateful that we are finally hearing the real voices of student-athletes, voices that have been silenced by schools and conferences with heavy restrictions on when they can speak, how they can speak and what they should. talk. Access to media has become increasingly limited year on year, as restrictions on the use of social media have increased, depriving players of the ability to truly express themselves. Schools may see it as protecting them, but in reality, they are only protecting themselves.

This spring awakening has finally shown players that they have meaningful voices, who have power, who can create change. Florida State defensive tackle Marvin Wilson, who used social media to create change in his own locker room, told me he never really thought that anyone cared about what he had to say. That was until his tweet went viral on social media, allowing him to implement a long list of ideas that he created in his first year not only for his team, but also for the community around. him. These demands made by the Pac-12 players are not just an instinctive reaction to the current situation. They are well thought out, well researched, well intentioned, and impressive within their reach. There is power in their words, in their courage and in their conviction. Silence is complicity, and that can no longer be an option. The Pac-12 should sit down and listen. It is time for all of us to do it.

Kyle Bonagura: The idea that a full scholarship and the accompanying extras that come with playing major Division I football qualify as fair market value in 2020 is patently absurd. Not with the money that these teams generate; not when coaches are often the highest paid government employees. If Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott, whose tenure is widely criticized, deserves more than $ 5 million a year, there’s no way to justify star athletes – the ones people actually pay to watch – should be remunerated in comparison. But Scott negotiated his ridiculous salary, so much the better for him. He used the leverage at his disposal to improve his own personal situation. Players haven’t been able to use leverage in the same way for a myriad of reasons – age, the short window they have in college, etc. – but the Pac-12 players have shown, as a collective, that they now understand the kind of unified efforts it will take to bring about change. It’s too early to say for sure how this will play out, but just about everything described in their letter is long overdue.


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