Cal Athletic Director Backs Pac-12 #WeAreUnited Group

Cal student-athlete-led activism group earns university support

The Pac-12 #WeAreUnited student-athlete activism group has an unlikely supporter: the university administration.

Earlier this week, California Athletic Director Jim Knowlton expressed support for the activism group during a conference call with media: “I support them. I think that there’s no bad idea, and let’s always have a good discussion going as we continue to try to make college athletics special.”

At the beginning of the month, Pac-12 student-athletes shared 17 “demands,” ranging from health and safety protections to avoid the spread of Covid-19 to financial demands of the Pac-12 Conference, universities and school endowment funds.

Notably, the group sought a voluntary reduction to what it saw as the “excessive pay” of Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott, campus administrators and coaches; the creation of financial aid and development programs for Black students to “end racial injustice in college sports and society;” and a 50% distribution of every sport’s total conference revenue to each sport’s respective athletes.

“I was lucky because we have three student-athletes that have been representing Cal on that committee,” Knowlton said, referring to Valentino Daltoso, Jake Curhan and Josh Drayden, who together “spearheaded” the #WeAreUnited group by organizing their peers at other Pac-12 universities this summer.

The Pac-12 student-athletes, most of them football players, said they would “opt out” of fall training and season play unless their demands were met and guaranteed in writing.

In the last week, the NCAA and Pac-12 Conference have made efforts to address the concerns of student-athletes and their families. The governing bodies recently said they would require schools to cover any Covid-19-related medical expenses, forbid waivers of legal rights regarding Covid-19, and allow and protect the scholarships and team-standings of any student-athlete who chooses to sit out because of health concerns.

But the Pac-12 #WeAreUnited group balked after the Pac-12 Conference canceled all sports competitions through the end of the year on Tuesday. The San Francisco-based league’s decision came after the Big Ten Conference postponed its fall season out of concern for the “mental and physical health and welfare of our student-athletes.”

“It is obvious that the Pac-12 was woefully unprepared to protect college athlete safety in response to Covid-19 and could not address the basic and essential safety demands made by #WeAreUnited,” the group declared in a prepared statement.

The statement continued: “The system is broken. College athletes deserve and need a real voice in the form of a players association.”