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#WeAreUnited PAC-12 FOOTBALL PLAYERS THREATEN TO SIT OUT DUE TO RACIAL AND ECONOMIC INJUSTICE

Talks continue amongst officials in the largest collegiate sports conferences on how to best carry out a college football season in the course of a pandemic that has cost us over 145,000 American lives and counting. One group that has been significantly absent from the conversation in an official capacity is the student-athletes putting their lives on the line and health at risk. So they've chosen to take matters into their own hands.

Hundreds of Pac-12 football players revealed Sunday they will opt out of any upcoming training camps and games unless the conference negotiates with them and reaches a legal agreement concerning health and safety practices, while also addressing problems of racial injustice and economic inequality. With a virus that shows no signs of decreasing and continuous civil rights protests around the country, the holdout is taking place at one of the most defining moments in this country's history.

The players, who've been in discussions with each other for over a month, have made a public list of requirements, intending to create a formal negotiation process with the conference. The student-athletes are calling for specific health and safety protection as it relates to the COVID-19 pandemic (including player-approved standards and third-party oversight), preservation of non-revenue sports, a joint task force to address racial injustice concerns, and economic freedom and equity-- consisting of guaranteed medical coverage, name, image, likeness, and fair-market pay based upon a revenue-sharing model.


The NCAA has long marginalized athletes who make millions for many other than themselves. However, there may be no scenario that has spotlighted the absurdity of the enterprise of collegiate sports as much as the coronavirus pandemic. Sometimes, schools ask students to remain at home and take classes online while still asking athletes to play football games. Other schools ask players to sign waivers discharging them(the schools) of any liability involving COVID. The universities are making decisions without formalized input from players, unlike the return of every other sport. The conference commissioners, athletic directors, and coaches have too much revenue on the line not to play.



And all of this is happening amid a civil rights movement that's perhaps drawing more attention than ever to the plight of Black Americans. The NCAA announced in July it would enable athletes to wear social justice slogans on the backs of their jerseys in 2020-21. On the other hand, the majority Black labor force of the highest-revenue producing sports (football and men's basketball) are losing the opportunity to build generational wealth (in prime years 18-22) because of a certain few at the top hoarding all the money.

The choice by athletes across the nation not to play until their needs are discussed is likely the most significant difficulty the NCAA has actually dealt with amidst the years of public pressure over its unaccountable and exploitative system. Northwestern football players aimed to unionize in 2014, but that was only one school, and their bid was eventually crushed at the national level. Congress is currently dealing with legislation involving name, image, and likeness rights, however, despite sharp criticism from senators on both sides of the aisle, comprehensive reform to the whole system isn't expected. A holdout is the most impactful choice.

As a result of the players' cooperative action, the NCAA can do the best thing and meet them at the table for a structured and respectable negotiation.


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