Utes, Pac-12 players tweeted support of boycott, but not clear how many are saying they’ll miss games

At 12:31 p.m. on Sunday, Jake Bentley tweeted the same two-picture graphic that dozens, if not hundreds of Pac-12 football players had already tossed on their respective timelines.

On the left, team logos encircling the Pac-12 logo itself with #WEAREUNITED underneath it. To the right, reasons for the We Are United movement, a player-led push to boycott games if the league does not meet a series of demands regarding safety, compensation and racial justice.

Less than two hours afterward, Bentley felt compelled to tweet again. This time, the South Carolina graduate transfer quarterback made clear that while he supports the We Are United movement and Pac-12 players willing to sit out, he will be playing this fall if the COVID-19 pandemic allows it.

So far, the University of Utah athletic department has offered no comment on the players’s demands, but the Pac-12 did.

“Neither the conference nor our university athletics departments have been contacted by this group regarding these topics,” the Pac-12 statement read. “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.”

Bentley was one of at least 20 Utah players who tweeted support for the movement Sunday. Among them, Bentley’s chief competition to start at quarterback, Cameron Rising; All-Pac-12 linebacker Devin Lloyd; versatile, veteran offensive lineman Nick Ford; and freshman cornerback Clark Phillips III, the crown jewel of Utah’s most-recent recruiting class.

Of the 20 Utes to chime in on Sunday, it does not appear any of them explicitly said they would be willing to boycott a game, training camp or a mandatory summer workout. Mandatory summer work was scheduled to begin at Utah on Monday. Training is scheduled to start Aug. 17, 40 days before the Sept. 26 season opener at Washington State.

Bentley, for what it’s worth, has had a long road to recovery after injuring his foot in the 2019 opener and missing the remainder of the season at South Carolina. His desire to play as a graduate transfer after dealing with that is understandable.

“I believe change needs to happen,” Bentley said in his second tweet. “I fully and wholeheartedly support my brothers from around the Pac-12 that are fighting for change. These unprecedented times have put a strain on everyone involved. I’m so excited to how impactful this push for change will be.

“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.”

Ford also sent a second tweet, but didn’t directly say whether he was willing to sit out. Instead, he wrote, “The decision for my teammates to play or not is their decision. The decision for me to play or not is mine.” He added that he retweeted the campaign “to lead those who want to have a voice at this university.”

Bentley is not the only Pac-12 player who sought to clarify his position on the threatened boycott.

UCLA junior quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson, a potential mid-round NFL Draft pick in 2021, clarified his position Sunday afternoon, tweeting “I understand and support every guy on the Pac-12 petition & #WeAreUnited but Opting-out not a option for me.”

Jaden Mitchell took things a step further. The redshirt freshman wide receiver from the University of Arizona tweeted he will not opt out, even after having COVID-19 for three weeks, quarantining for four weeks, and losing 14 pounds as a result. Mitchell also voiced doubts about how the sport will function with “....100+ people in a locker room, 70+ players travel, add on coaches, staff, trainers, and more and I don’t see how that will work.”

Conversely, the biggest Pac-12 name to tweet Sunday, Oregon tackle and projected top-5 NFL Draft pick Penei Sewell, sent out the same two-picture graphic Bentley did. The Desert Hills High School graduate later retweeted others in support, but has not specifically said whether or not he would be willing to boycott.