In a bit of news which apparently wasn't supposed to be public until Monday, there is a contingent of Pac-12 football players which is compiling a list of demands that could result in a boycott of any potential football season if they are not met.
The Athletic obtained a text message going around to players in the conference which reads, "We are unifying Pac-12 football players to opt out of all Pac-12 fall camps and football games until our negotiations with the Pac-12 end." The graphic goes on to say that the players are seeking to ensure safe play during COVID-19, fight racial injustice, secure economic rights and fair compensation, protect all sports and obtain long-term health insurance.
A Pac-12 spokesperson said that as of Saturday, the conference has yet to hear from the group of players.
ESPN — "Neither the Conference nor our university athletics departments have been contacted by this group regarding these topics," a Pac-12 statement said. "We support our student-athletes using their voice and have regular communications with our student-athletes at many different levels on a range of topics. As we have clearly stated with respect to our fall competition plans, we are, and always will be, directed by medical experts, with the health, safety and well being of our student athletes, coaches and staff always the first priority. We have made it clear that any student athlete who chooses not to return to competition for health or safety reasons will have their scholarship protected."
All of those things listed are great and worthwhile things for these players to try to address, but they don't seem like issues that a major collegiate athletic conference is going to be able to address in the next month or so. It sounds like this group of players has some pretty big things it wants to change and I don't know how quickly all that can get done. If they're really going to boycott a season without a resolution to all of these demands, that may wind up being what happens.
In an offseason which has been filled with surprises, player empowerment in collegiate athletics has been a bigger storyline than ever before. Oklahoma State star running back Chuba Hubbard threatened to leave the team after head coach Mike Gundy wore an OAN t-shirt. UCLA players demanded third-party health officials to make sure the school was doing everything by the book as it relates to coronavirus. In a time when schools have made it abundantly clear just how important student-athletes are to their bottom lines, the players have realized their bargaining power.
We'll have to wait for the official announcement from this group of Pac-12 players, but just a day after the conference announced its 2020 football schedule, things could get interesting on the West Coast.