At least 20 University of Utah football players, including some projected starters, are supporting a movement by Pac-12 players to boycott games if the league does not meet a series of demands.
The list, which includes items regarding safety, compensation and racial justice, was published Sunday on The Players’ Tribune and is signed by “Players of the Pac-12.” It is unknown whether any Utes were involved in drafting the document, but junior linebacker Devin Lloyd, an All-Pac-12 honorable mention pick last season, tweeted his support for what has been dubbed on Twitter as the #WeAreUnited movement.
Much-hyped four-star freshman Clark Phillips III, a likely starter at cornerback, All-Pac-12 offensive lineman Nick Ford, and South Carolina graduate transfer quarterback Jake Bentley were among the 20 who tweeted their support Sunday.
Later in the afternoon, Bentley, who missed most of last season with the Gamecocks with a foot injury, took to Twitter to clarify his position.
“I’ve fought through a lot to be here in this moment, and given the circumstances of my situation and battling back from injury, I fully plan on playing football this season,” Bentley tweeted in part. “I’ve talked to teammates about this who fully support me, just as I fully support them. I can’t wait to enjoy my last year of college football as a Utah Ute.”
Across the Pac-12, the biggest name to get on board via Twitter was Oregon junior offensive tackle Penei Sewell, a Desert Hills High School graduate and a projected top-5 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. Sewell’s older brother, Nephi, a Utah redshirt junior linebacker, was among the Utes who tweeted in support.
The players’ statement comes two days after the Pac-12 announced a 10-game, conference-only football schedule. Neither the University of Utah nor the Pac-12 have issued a response to the players’s demands.
Mandatory summer access workouts and walkthroughs are allowed to begin Monday, with fall camps starting as soon as Aug. 17 if local and state ordinances allow. Utah athletic director Mark Harlan said Friday afternoon that the Utes plan to open training camp on the first allowable day under the Pac-12 mandate, Aug. 17.
The full list of Pac-12 player demands, as outlined on The Players’ Tribune, includes:
Health & Safety Protections
1. Allow the option not to play during the pandemic without losing athletics eligibility or a spot on the team’s roster.
2. Prohibit/void COVID-19 agreements that waive liability.
Mandatory safety standards
1. Player-approved health and safety standards enforced by a third party selected by players to address COVID-19, as well as serious injury, abuse and death.
Preserve all existing sports by eliminating excessive expenditures
1. Larry Scott, administrators and coaches should to voluntarily and drastically reduce excessive pay.
2. End performance/academic bonuses.
3. End lavish facility expenditures and use some endowment funds to preserve all sports.*
*As an example, Stanford University should reinstate all sports discontinued by tapping into their $27.7 billion endowment.
End racial injustice in college sports and society
1. Form a permanent civic-engagement task force made up of the athletes’s leaders, experts of their choice, and university and conference administrators to address issues such as racial injustice.
2. In partnership with the Pac-12, 2% of conference revenue would be directed by players to support financial aid for low-income Black students, community initiatives, and development programs for college athletes.
3. Form annual Pac-12 Black College Athlete Summit with guaranteed representation of at least three athletes from each school selected by the athletes.
Economic freedom and equity
Guaranteed medical expense coverage
1. Medical insurance selected by players for sports-related conditions, including COVID-19, that extends six years after college athletics eligibility ends.
Name, image, and likeness rights
1. The freedom to secure representation, receive basic necessities from any third party, and earn money for use of an athlete’s name, image, and likeness rights.
Fair market pay
1. Distribute 50% of each sport’s total conference revenue evenly among athletes in their respective sports.
2. Six-year athletic scholarships to foster undergraduate and graduate degree completion.
3. Elimination of all policies restricting or deterring an athlete’s freedom of speech, ability to participate in charitable work, and the freedom to participate in campus activities outside of mandatory athletics participation.
4. Ability of players of all sports to transfer one time without punishment, and additionally in cases of abuse or serious negligence.
5. Ability to complete eligibility after participating in a pro draft if player goes undrafted and foregoes professional participation within seven days of the draft.
6. Due process rights.
UTAH FOOTBALL PLAYERS TWEETING SUPPORT
Jake Bentley, Gr., QB
Micah Bernard, RS-Fr., RB
Bronson Boyd, RS-Jr., DB
Maxwell Cotton., RS-Fr., WR
Samuelu Elisaia, Sr., LB
Solomon Enis, Jr., WR
Nick Ford, RS-Jr., OL
TJ Green, RS-Jr., RB
Al Harrison, Fr., OL
Mufi Hill-Hunt., RS-Sr., DL
Semisi Lauaki, RS-Fr., DL
Devin Lloyd, RS-Jr., LB
Hunter Lotulelei, FR., OL
Andrew Mata'afa, RS-So., LB
Clark Phillips III, Fr., DB
Fua Pututau, RS-So., DL
Cameron Rising, RS-So., QB
Noah Rodriguez-Trammell, RS-Jr., LS
Nephi Sewell, RS-Jr., LB
Alphonso Taylor, So., DB
Within this list of player demands, several things stand out.
Under “Health & Safety Protections,” players want the “option to not play during the pandemic without losing athletics eligibility or spot on our team’s roster.” Harlan said Friday, and more than once since the pandemic started, that no one’s scholarship will be in danger if they opt not to play.
From a financial standpoint, players are asking the Pac-12 to “distribute 50% of each sport’s total conference revenue evenly among athletes in their respective sports.” Such a demand is likely a nonstarter. Sport-by-sport revenue distribution appears to be a violation of Title IX, which is federal law.
Furthermore, the players’ document references that Stanford announced July 8 it would cut 11 varsity sports, yet has an endowment approaching $30 billion. Much of the endowment, though, is earmarked for various reasons, so much of it isn’t accessible to cover the costs of sports.
The movement first came to light on July 17 when Rudy Carpenter, a former Arizona State quarterback who is now a QB coach, fired off a series of tweets referencing the list of demands and a potential boycott.