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Group of Pac-12 football players present list of demands surrounding racial injustice, COVID, and economics; threaten to sit out season

‘We Are United’ demands lead to release of WSU players

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Group of Pac-12 football players present list of demands surrounding racial injustice, COVID, and economics, threaten to sit out season

Washington's Joe Tryon tackles Utah's Zack Moss in Washington's 33-28 loss against Utah on Nov 2, 2019. Tryon, along with UW receiver Ty Jones, were among athletes quotes in the "We Are United" statement.

A group of Pac-12 athletes released a unified statement Sunday morning regarding racial injustice, player safety, and economics, threatening to sit out of fall camp and games unless the demands are met. Among those who signed the statement: UW football players Ty Jones and Joe Tryon.

The statement, headlined using the slogan “We Are United,” was published on The Players’ Tribune and features a list of demands under four sections: “Health & Safety Protections,” “Protect All Sports,” “End Racial Injustice in College Sports and Society,” and “Economic Freedom and Equity.”

In the hours following the publication of the statement, the Spokesman Review reported that Washington State wide receiver Kassidy Woods, who shared the “We Are United” graphic, had been released from the team. Other athletes who shared the graphic include Dallas Hobbs, Lamonte McDougle, Pat Nunn, and Syr Riley; their status on the team remains unclear.

The Athletic reported that WSU athletes who opt out of the season due to COVID concerns would have their scholarship honored, but there is no word whether their roster spots would be guaranteed for the following season. WSU has yet to release a follow-up statement on the release of its players.

“We Are United”

The first of the four demand sections in the group statement, “Health & Safety Protections,” calls to protect not only athletes on scholarship but also walk-ons, allowing athletes the opportunity to sit out the 2020 season without losing a roster spot or scholarship.

“It is imperative to ensure my teammates and fellow student athletes a safe environment to play in,” Jones said in a press release. “This is also important to me because this will make future student athletes’ lives easier. Student athletes’ lives shouldn’t be put at risk in order to prevent further financial backlash — especially when receiving insufficient compensation.”

The second, “Protect All Sports,” calls for the elimination of excessive expenditure, including reducing Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott’s $5.3 million salary, helping to preserve sports cut for economic reasons.

The third, “End Racial Injustice in College Sports and Society,” asks for a civic-engagement task force of athletes, experts, and administrators to address racial injustice, along with 2% of conference revenue directed to support low-income Black players, communities, and development programs. Also requested is the formation of an annual Pac-12 Black College Athlete Summit with representation from every school.

Lastly, “Economic Freedom and Equity” demands medical insurance for athletes for six years following the expiration of their athletic eligibility; freedom for athletes to profit from their names, images, and likenesses; and a 50% athlete share in conference revenue. Included is the ability to return to collegiate athletics if a player goes undrafted.

“The current state of the world is extremely fragile,” Tryon said. “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.”

The statement, which comes a day after the conference released its new conference-only schedule for the 2020 season, was reposted by more than a dozen UW football players, including former five-star recruit Sav’ell Smalls, Josiah Bronson, and Levi Onwuzurike, using the hashtag #WeAreUnited.

UW safety Elijah Molden also took to Twitter to share his thoughts on the issues at hand.

“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.),” Molden said in the tweet. “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.”

The tweet was liked over 1,200 times as of 4:45 p.m. and had been retweeted by athletes such as Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence.

Reach reporter Anthony Edwards at Twitter: @edwardsanthonyb

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