Multiple student athletes in the Pac-12 college conference have threatened to opt out of the upcoming 2020-2021 season due to their concerns about the coronavirus pandemic, racial inequality, and economic inequality issues.
In a post on The Players’ Tribune website, which is often used to provide first-person perspectives of athletes, Pac-12 athletes declared their rallying cry, “#WeAreUnited.” The athletes’ manifesto claimed that the NCAA body, which encompasses all major college athletics, “exploit[s] college athletes physically, economically and academically, and also disproportionately harm Black college athletes.”
Each opening sentence in subsequent paragraphs began with a declarative tone, “Because we are,” and it listed a series of demands of Pac-12 administrators. The list of demands ranged from “adequate COVID testing” to lacking the ability to refuse signing “documents that may serve as liability waivers” and that they “should not be stuck with sports-related medical expenses, including COVID-19 related expenses.” Each paragraph ends with the aforementioned hashtag and rallying cry, “#WeAreUnited.”
Other demands were exemptions for athletes to not play this upcoming season without losing scholarship and eligibility, lack of rights for compensation related to use of likenesses and images in merchandise and advertising, and the issue of no revenue-sharing between the NCAA and athletes. The athletes also criticized the “lavish salaries and facility expenditures” of college athletics programs and claimed that the NCAA’s current model “prevent[s] the 98% of college football and college basketball players who won’t go pro from capitalizing economically” during their athletic prime years “including many Black players from low-income homes.”
The Pac-12 said that these athletes have not reached out to their staff nor their athletic departments directly.
The Pac-12 conference’s member schools are located along the West Coast states of Washington, Oregon, and California, and also include programs at Arizona State University, University of Arizona, University of Utah, and the University of Colorado. Some of the members states have been hard-hit by the pandemic, such as California and Arizona, which could have spurred the athletes’ public demands.