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Players unite in push to save college football season, create union

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- Data Covid-19 USA — 

Michi­gan defen­sive back Hunter Reynolds saw the tweets from Trevor Lawrence and oth­er col­lege foot­ball play­ers, push­ing for the oppor­tu­ni­ty to play this sea­son, despite the pandemic.

Reynolds, one of the orga­niz­ers behind a play­ers’ rights move­ment in the Big Ten, didn’t like the way some on social media seemed to be pit­ting Lawrence’s mes­sage against the efforts of #BigTe­nUnit­ed and #WeAre­Unit­ed.

“There was a lot of divi­sion,” Reynolds told AP ear­ly Mon­day morning.

Reynolds got on a call with Lawrence and the star quarterback’s Clem­son team­mate, Darien Rencher, and with­in a mat­ter of hours the sum­mer of ath­lete empow­er­ment found anoth­er gear.

Col­lege foot­ball play­ers from across the coun­try unit­ed Sun­day in an attempt to save their sea­son and ensure they will no longer be left out of the sport’s biggest decisions.

Lawrence, Ohio State quar­ter­back Justin Fields, Okla­homa State All-Amer­i­ca run­ning back Chu­ba Hub­bard, Alaba­ma run­ning back Najee Har­ris and numer­ous oth­er play­ers from Flori­da State to Ore­gon post­ed a graph­ic on social media with #WeWant­To­Play and #WeAre­Unit­ed.

“We came to the con­clu­sion, We Want to Play, their mes­sage might have been con­veyed dif­fer­ent­ly but at the end of the day the mes­sage wasn’t too far off from what Big Ten Unit­ed want­ed to pro­mote,” Reynolds said. “Which is we all want to play sports this fall. Every ath­lete, I’m pret­ty sure, wants to play their sports. They just want to do so safely.”

The #WeAre­Unit­ed hash­tag was used a week ago by a group of Pac-12 play­ers in announc­ing a move­ment they say has the sup­port of hun­dreds of peers with­in their con­fer­ence. They have threat­ened mass opt-outs by play­ers if con­cerns about COVID-19 pro­to­cols, racial injus­tice in col­lege sports and eco­nom­ic rights for ath­letes are not addressed.

#BigTe­nUnit­ed arrived on the scene a cou­ple days lat­er, a move­ment that claimed the back­ing off 1,000 Big Ten foot­ball play­ers. Their demands were more tar­get­ed, strict­ly relat­ed to health and safe­ty in deal­ing with COVID-19.

Sun­day night, the call with Reynolds, Rencher and Lawrence led to a Zoom meet­ing — of course — with some of the Pac-12 play­ers involved in “WeAre­Unit­ed.”

Wash­ing­ton State defen­sive line­man Dal­las Hobbs got to work on a graph­ic and now the move­ment is offi­cial­ly nationwide.

“Just start­ed bounc­ing ideas off each oth­ers’ heads and kind of dis­cussing where we go from here and we end­ed up com­ing up with that state­ment,” said Reynolds, a senior from South Orange, New Jersey.

Under the logos of each Pow­er Five con­fer­ence — ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC — the play­ers pro­nounced their platform:

–We all want to play foot­ball this season.

–Estab­lish uni­ver­sal man­dat­ed health & safe­ty pro­ce­dures and pro­to­cols to pro­tect col­lege ath­letes against COVID-19 among all con­fer­ences through­out the NCAA.

–Give play­ers the oppor­tu­ni­ty to opt out and respect their decision.

–Guar­an­tee eli­gi­bil­i­ty whether a choos­es to play the sea­son or not.

–Use our voic­es to estab­lish open com­mu­ni­ca­tion and trust between play­ers and offi­cials: Ulti­mate­ly cre­ate a Col­lege Foot­ball Play­ers Association.

All of this capped a week­end dur­ing which the adults who run col­lege sports seemed to be mov­ing toward shut­ting it all down because of the pandemic.

A day after the Mid-Amer­i­can Con­fer­ence became the first of the major col­lege foot­ball leagues to can­cel the fall sea­son, Pow­er Five con­fer­ence com­mis­sion­ers met Sun­day. They dis­cussed mount­ing con­cerns about whether a sea­son can be safe­ly con­duct­ed with the pan­dem­ic still not under con­trol in the Unit­ed States.

Big 12 Com­mis­sion­er Bob Bowls­by said no deci­sions on the sea­son have been made, but con­ced­ed the out­look has not improved.

“Are we in a bet­ter place than two weeks, ago? No, we’re not,” he said.

Bowls­by cit­ed “grow­ing evi­dence and the grow­ing pool of data around myocarditis.”

Myocardi­tis is inflam­ma­tion of the heart and it has been found in some COVID-19 patients. There is con­cern it could be a long-term com­pli­ca­tion of con­tract­ing the virus even in young, healthy peo­ple, a group that has usu­al­ly avoid­ed severe car­dio­vas­cu­lar symptoms.

Also Sun­day night, the Big Ten’s uni­ver­si­ty pres­i­dents and chan­cel­lors held a pre­vi­ous­ly unsched­uled meet­ing, a per­son with knowl­edge of the meet­ing told The Asso­ci­at­ed Press. The per­son spoke on con­di­tion of anonymi­ty because the meet­ing was not announced by the conference.

Anoth­er per­son with direct knowl­edge of the meet­ing, speak­ing on con­di­tion of anonymi­ty, said no votes were tak­en or deci­sions made about the col­lege foot­ball season.

The final call on whether major col­lege foot­ball will played this sea­son rests in the hands of the uni­ver­si­ty pres­i­dents who over­see the largest conferences.

With doom and gloom hang­ing over col­lege foot­ball, Lawrence, who has become the face of the sport in a sum­mer of strife, tried to push back the tide with a series of tweets.

“Peo­ple are at just as much, if not more risk, if we don’t play,” Lawrence post­ed. “Play­ers will all be sent home to their own com­mu­ni­ties where social dis­tanc­ing is high­ly unlike­ly and med­ical care and expens­es will be placed on the fam­i­lies if they were to con­tract covid19.”

Penn State tight end Pat Freier­muth had a sim­i­lar mes­sage, and the par­ents of Ohio State foot­ball play­ers weighed in, too.

Reynolds wants ath­letes to have a say in the meet­ings that are decid­ing the fate of their sports — start­ing now.

”All col­lege ath­letes through uni­fy­ing and not being afraid to speak our minds and hav­ing social media to kind of mobi­lize, I think that box on a Zoom call is some­thing that is pret­ty attain­able,” he said. “Espe­cial­ly, in the near future.”

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