Cal football leads and unifies Pac-12 in fight for players' rights

Pac-12 student-athletes make a bold statement, threatening not to participate unless the conference and the NCAA make changes to support student-athletes.

Pac-12 Football players made a powerful statement today to fight for the rights of student-athletes. I strongly urge anyone who watches these student-athletes to read their full statement in The Players’ Tribune—it’s literally the least you could do for all the entertainment and pride you’ve enjoyed as a result of the hard work of student-athletes—but here are a few of the key points:

To ensure future generations of college athletes will be treated fairly, #WeAreUnited.

Because NCAA sports exploit college athletes physically, economically and academically, and also disproportionately harm Black college athletes, #WeAreUnited.

Because we are being asked to play college sports in a pandemic in a system without enforced health and safety standards, and without transparency about COVID cases on our teams, the risks to ourselves, our families, and our communities, #WeAreUnited.

Because we are prohibited from securing representation while being asked to sign documents that may serve as liability waivers, #WeAreUnited.

Because we should not be stuck with sports-related medical expenses, including COVID-19 related expenses, #WeAreUnited.

Because any player who does not feel comfortable playing this season should be free to opt out without losing their scholarship or any eligibility, #WeAreUnited.

Because we should be included in equitably sharing the revenue our talents generate, especially in a pandemic, #WeAreUnited.

Because unjust rules prevent the 98% of college football and basketball players who won’t go pro from capitalizing economically on what would otherwise be the most valuable years of our lives, including many Black players from low-income homes, #WeAreUnited.

Because eliminating lavish salaries and facility expenditures to preserve all sports must be prioritized, #WeAreUnited.

Because the NCAA has failed us and we are prepared to ensure that our conference treats us fairly whether or not it continues its NCAA membership, #WeAreUnited.

The players detailed their list of “demands” that must be met or they will not participate in fall camp or the season. They have 17 demands grouped under four broad categories; you can read the full list at The Players’ Tribune, but the categories are:

  • Health & Safety Protections

  • Protect All Sports

  • End Racial Injustice in College Sports and Society

  • Economic Freedom and Equity

It is a fairly comprehensive list that focuses not just on themselves—their demands are also to protect and elevate both Black and non-revenue student-athletes.

There are twelve student-athletes listed as media contacts for this mission—all football players—from Arizona, Arizona State, California (identifying themselves as “UC Berkeley Football Players”), Oregon, Oregon State, Stanfurd, UC Los Angeles, Washington, and Washington State.

Two weeks ago, rumors leaked on Twitter about this movement, with former ASU/NFL quarterback Rudy Carpenter identifying that the group was “spearheaded” by California student-athletes—presumably the three listed as media contacts; this was later corroborated by The Athletic.

Curhan, Daltoso, and Drayden will all be fifth-year redshirt-seniors for the 2020 season. Drayden redshirted last season in order to give the Bears a dangerous and talented cornerback/nickelback in 2020 and has played in 39 games with six starts. Daltoso started his career at Oregon for his redshirt season before transferring to Cal, where he has played in 34 games with 33 starts. Curhan has earned All-Academic honors throughout his career, has started in every single one of Cal’s 38 games for the past three seasons, and was a team captain last year. Within the California team, it certainly lends credence and prominence to the statement to have three talented and respected players associated with it. Within the conference, Oregon’s All-World offensive lineman (and quite possibly the best player in the conference) Penei Sewell tweeted his support—which is definitely helping to ensure this message is heard.

Beyond these three, a number of Cal players—past, present, and future—and figures voiced their support. This list includes (but is not limited to) Kuong Deng, Cameron Goode, Evan Weaver, Mike Silver, Alex Funches, Ben Moos, Justin Baker, and Trevon Clark.

There will certainly be a divide among fans who agree and those who disagree with the statement, issues raised, and demands; however, we hope everyone in our community can respect the initiative and courage from these student-athletes to organize and raise their voices to protect themselves and others.