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Group of Pac-12 football players may boycott season over various concerns

Offensive lineman Cody Shear was one of 12 players listed as supporters of the initiative

_20190829 ASU Football vs Kent State 0315.jpg

ASU players huddle on the field before the home opener against Kent State on Thursday, Aug. 29, 2019, at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Arizona.

A group of Pac-12 football players listed a series of demands to the conference around the issues of racial injustice, COVID-19 and financial equality in a Players Tribune article released Sunday morning.

Along with these demands, the article states that the players joining this initiative will not participate in fall camps or play in any games until the requests are met.

ASU redshirt junior offensive lineman Cody Shear, who was among the 12 players listed as media contacts in the press release with the article, spoke to The State Press Sunday afternoon.

"Coach Herm (Edwards) has been more than supportive in this," Shear said. "I let him know this morning and he basically said that he has my back and that he thinks that this is something that could really benefit college athletes for years to come."

According to Shear, he is the only member of ASU's football team who has publicly supported the initiative. However, he has received support from his teammates internally. 

"It's definitely difficult to throw your head out on the chopping block and be someone who is going to speak to the public that's this widely covered," Shear said. "There's been a tremendous amount of support from the guys at ASU."

Shear is hopeful that change will come from this initiative. As he explains it, it's a movement that has grown from roughly 15 players to over 400.

"It starts and ends with the players," Shear said. "We started this movement and we put down a list of demands. We're fighting for what we believe in, and I think that the ball is in the Pac-12's court at this point."

The Pac-12 has yet to receive any direct communication from the group, a conference spokesperson said.

An ASU spokesperson said the University had “no statement” on the matter.

Administrative expenditure reform and economic demands

The group of Pac-12 football players had a wide variety of demands for change surrounding the economics within the conference. 

One of those demands regarded the financial benefits of the athletes, as the group requested that all conference revenue within each sport would be split in half with the athletes. The group also demanded guaranteed medical insurance for six years after an athlete's collegiate career and "drastically" reduced pay for Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott, administrators and coaches.

"I had an uncle that played at the University of Oregon, he was one of the highest rated linebackers in the country after his senior year coming out of high school," Shear said. "Unfortunately, he received upwards of 10 concussions and walked away with no NFL check and some medical bills he has to play for."

The group of players also demanded the right for student-athletes to earn money using their name, image and likeness. Multiple states have passed bills within the past year that would eventually allow student-athletes to earn compensation, including Arizona and California.

In addition, the group requested the use of endowment funds to maintain sports within their school's departments. The article specifically points out Stanford in regard to this issue, saying the school could use its $27.7 billion endowment to maintain the 11 sports that were cut by the department in July due to financial losses during the pandemic

COVID-19 related demands

The group of players requested that — due to the COVID-19 pandemic — the health and safety standards for the upcoming season should be drafted and enforced by a third-party source selected by the players.

In addition, the group demanded the conference eliminate and prohibit COVID-19 liability waivers and allow athletes to opt out of the season without losing their academic scholarship or spot on their team's roster.

Certain schools, such as Southern Methodist University, previously required student-athletes to sign liability waivers to attend summer workouts, which would've theoretically cleared the school of any wrongdoing if one were to suffer injury, loss or damage due to contracting the virus while participating. The university ceased the usage of these waivers this past Wednesday.

In a statement to The State Press on June 30, the University said that it would not make student-athletes sign similar liability waivers to participate in athletics.

Prior to the release of the article, the Pac-12 had already guaranteed players their scholarships would not be affected if they decided not to play this upcoming season due to safety concerns over COVID-19.

Racial Justice demands

In light of the Black Lives Matter movement, the group demanded that the conference develop a civic task force designed by leaders of the players' choosing. 

The group also requested that 2% of the conference's revenue be directed toward financial aid for low-income Black students, community initiatives and on-campus programs, according to the article. 

The group additionally requested the creation of a Pac-12 Black College Athlete Summit that would have at least three athletes from every school selected for the summit.

"I think that there's a lot to be said that, in this day and age, it is somewhat rare to play from an African American head coach," Shear said. "That should be normalized in college football. African American student-athletes make up the majority of college football."

The University has said it will "be advocates for change against racism, prejudice and bigotry," saying in a statement, "We are committed to leading positive change and will continue to inform, educate and bring awareness to social injustices and be proactive in solution-oriented responses." 

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