A group that claims to represent “hundreds of Pac-12 football players” distributed a news release Sunday that includes a set of demands surrounding health and safety protections; the fight against racial injustice; the preservation of all existing Pac-12 sports; extended healthcare; name, image and likeness rights; and revenue sharing within the conference.
If its demands are not met, the group — dubbed the “College Football Player Opt-Out Movement,” according to the news release — has threatened to not participate in practices or games.
Two University of Washington football players — redshirt juniors outside linebacker Joe Tryon and wide receiver Ty Jones — are listed as media contacts in the news release. Outside linebackers Sav’ell Smalls, Laiatu Latu, Zion Tupuola-Fetui and Bralen Trice; defensive backs Trent McDuffie and Isaiah Strong; offensive linemen Henry Bainivalu, Nate Kalepo and Myles Murao; defensive lineman Josiah Bronson and quarterback Jaden Sheffey also posted the group’s list of demands on social media.
One Washington State player — redshirt defensive lineman Dallas Hobbs — also was listed as a media contact.
“I want to see the conference at its 100% all around the board,” Hobbs said in a statement included in the news release. “We lack enforced health and safety standards, putting ourselves and others at risk. I believe we need the basic rights and benefits that will help our future. We are all grateful for what we have but there is so much more that would create generational change.”
Washington will hold a team meeting Monday to address the Pac-12 player group’s concerns, a source confirmed to The Times.
“It is exciting to be a part of a conference that is bold enough to challenge a flawed institution and fight to have our voices heard,” tweeted senior UW defensive back Elijah Molden, who led the Huskies in tackles, breakups, interceptions and forced fumbles in 2019. “This is a long time coming and I fully support the sentiment of the boycott. While I agree with most of the demands, there are a few that I cannot get on board with. My initial reaction was how some of the demands seem unrealistic and far-fetched given the context of our unique situation (COVID, financial restrictions, time, etc.). But that is not the point.
“The point is, us players need to have our voices heard. We need to stand up for ourselves and our loved ones, especially under the circumstances we are currently in. So I ask you all, please question your emotionally charged reaction to the news. Instead of reacting quickly, consider the entire situation … see both sides and remember that the situation isn’t binary. This way we can actually see some change and implement procedures that protect us players. Then we can FINALLY play some damn football”.
When asked for comment from athletics director Jen Cohen or head football coach Jimmy Lake, a UW spokesperson instead issued the following statement from the Pac-12 Conference:
“Neither the Conference nor our university athletics departments have been contacted by this group regarding these topics. 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.”
As it relates to the COVID-19 pandemic, the release from the players’ group states “there’s not enough transparency about health risks, no uniformity to ensure we’re all safe when we play each other, and no adequate enforcement infrastructure. NCAA sports has truly failed us, it doesn’t enforce any health and safety standards. We believe a football season under these conditions would be reckless and put us at needless risk. We will not play until there is real change that is acceptable to us.”
Besides having scholarships protected, the Pac-12 player group is demanding players be allowed to sit out without losing a year of eligibility. The group is also pushing to prohibit or void any agreement with a school that waives that school’s liability as it relates to the COVID-19 pandemic.
As for specific COVID-19 prevention measures moving forward, the group demands “player-approved health and safety standards enforced by a 3rd party selected by players to address COVID-19 and serious injury, abuse and death.”
In a section of the release titled “Economic Freedom and Equity,” the group’s demands include the following:
- medical insurance selected by players for sports-related medical conditions, including COVID-19, for six years after their collegiate eligibility expires.
- 50% of each sport’s total conference revenue distributed evenly among athletes in their respective sport.
- the freedom to secure representation and earn compensation for use of name, image, and likeness rights.
- six-year athletic scholarships to foster the completion of undergraduate and graduate degrees.
- the ability to complete eligibility after participating in a professional draft if a player goes undrafted and foregoes professional participation within seven days of the draft.
The release also links to a study by former UCLA football player Ramogi Huma — currently the executive director of the National College Players Association — and Drexel University professor Ellen J. Staurowsky titled, “How the NCAA’s Empire Robs Predominantly Black Athletes of Billions in Generational Wealth.” The study estimates the “average fair market value” of a Pac-12 football player to be $274,454 per year.
“It is imperative to ensure my teammates and fellow student athletes a safe environment to play in,” UW wide receiver Ty Jones said in a statement included in the Pac-12 players group’s news release. “This is also important to me because this will make future student athlete’s lives easier. Student athlete’s lives shouldn’t be put at risk in order to prevent further financial backlash — especially when receiving insufficient compensation.”
Added Tryon, in an accompanying statement: “The current state of the world is extremely fragile. We must be able to ensure the safety of all my brothers if we are to return to the field in the midst of a worldwide pandemic. We must also look into the continued exploitation of student athletes and how we do not receive fair compensation according to the amount of revenue we bring in. The line has to be drawn somewhere, it’s been too long.”
Both Jones and Tryon did not respond to interview requests.
The group’s demands address the fight against racial injustice as well. Specifically, the Pac-12 players call for the formation of a “permanent civic engagement joint task force” comprising outside experts as well as university and conference leadership to address outstanding issues of racial injustice; 2% of conference revenue to be allocated to financial aid for low-income black students, community initiatives and development programs for athletes on each campus; and the development of an annual “Pac-12 Black College Athlete Summit” with representation from at least three players of their choice from each school.
It’s worth noting that the Pac-12 did recently outline a series of “initial steps” to promote social justice and combat racism. Those steps include the creation of a head of diversity and inclusion position within the conference; the formation of a social-justice and anti-racism advisory group comprised of athletics and academic leaders and athletes from all Pac-12 member institutions; and the launch of a series of athlete and coach anti-racism virtual forums.
From a football perspective, both Tryon and Jones are expected to be key contributors for the Huskies. Tryon — a 6-foot-5, 262-pound redshirt junior from Renton — led UW with 12.5 tackles for loss and eight sacks last season, while contributing 41 tackles as well. The former Hazen High School standout was named to the All-Pac-12 second team in 2019 and was dubbed a Phil Steele preseason first-team All-American this summer.
The 6-4, 210-pound Jones did not catch a pass in four games last season as he recovered from a hand/wrist injury, but led the Huskies with six touchdown receptions in 2018. The Provo, Utah, product has caught 38 passes for 562 yards and six scores in 28 career games.
Friday, the Pac-12 Conference unveiled its retooled 10-game, conference-only 2020 schedules, with the season slated to start Sept. 26. Mandatory activities are allowed to begin as early as Monday, and training camp can commence as early as Aug. 17 — pending the approval of public health authorities.
The Pac-12 player group’s full list of demands can be found below.