The raging COVID-19 pandemic looks like it might be a tipping point for peonage ball:
A group that claims to represent “hundreds of Pac-12 football players” distributed a news release on Sunday that includes a set of demands surrounding health and safety protections; the fight against racial injustice; the preservation of all existing Pac-12 sports; extended healthcare; name, image and likeness rights; and revenue sharing within the conference.
If its demands are not met, the group — dubbed the “College Football Player Opt-Out Movement,” according to the news release — has threatened not to participate in practices or games.
Two University of Washington football players — redshirt juniors outside linebacker Joe Tryon and wide receiver Ty Jones — are listed as media contacts in the news release. Former five-star recruit and freshman outside linebacker Sav’ell Smalls, junior offensive lineman Henry Bainivalu, sophomore outside linebacker Zion Tupuola-Fetui and walk-on junior quarterback Jaden Sheffey also tweeted the group’s list of demands on Sunday morning.
As it relates to the COVID-19 pandemic, the release states that “there’s not enough transparency about health risks, no uniformity to ensure we’re all safe when we play each other, and no adequate enforcement infrastructure. NCAA sports has truly failed us, it doesn’t enforce any health and safety standards. We believe a football season under these conditions would be reckless and put us at needless risk. We will not play until there is real change that is acceptable to us.”
But can they really afford to leave a whole season’s paycheck on the tab….oh, right.
There is a very real chance that a player strike will kill a lot of conference schedules. The players aren’t paid, most players aren’t pro prospects, and the top ones will get drafted anyway. The only people with a long-term financial stake in the season being played by are marginal pro prospects, and even they have to trade off the extra year of scouting/development with the risk of injury compounded by exposure to a deadly virus. The NCAA might finally get strangled by its own gross exploitation.