Trevor Lawrence, Power Five players call for union amid season cancellation talks

·5 min read

A group of prominent college football players from across the Power Five conferences stood together on Sunday night and called for both the formation of a players union and the desire to play football this fall amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Players started tweeting out a #WeWantToPlay graphic — something that was reminiscent of the #WeAreUnited movement in the Pac-12 earlier this month — late on Sunday night with a list of requests, starting with the most basic.

“We all want to play football this season.”

There were four main demands on the graphic that was shared:

  • Establish universal mandated health and 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 player 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

The statement was the product of a Sunday night Zoom meeting of some of college football’s biggest stars, including Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence, Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields, Oklahoma State running back Chuba Hubbard and Alabama running back Najee Harris.

“The series of events that transpired in two hours was honestly pretty insane,” Stanford defensive end Dylan Boles told Yahoo Sports’ Henry Bushnell. “But it was amazing that it came through.”

Individual movements come together

The organizer-in-chief was Lawrence’s roommate, Clemson running back Darien Rencher. He and Boles helped convene a group that represented the SEC, ACC, Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac-12. They decided to merge the separate player movements — both the Pac-12 and the Big Ten had players come together with a list of demands in order to play the season safely this fall — into one giant #WeWantToPlay movement.

The announcement comes just hours after presidents and chancellors from Big Ten conference schools held a meeting on Sunday night. In that meeting, according to Yahoo Sports’ Pete Thamel, there was a strong majority in favor of canceling the season this fall due to the coronavirus pandemic.

[ Coronavirus: How the sports world is responding to the pandemic ]

The Mid-American Conference officially canceled its season on Saturday, becoming the first FBS conference to do so. UConn also canceled its season, which would have marked the Huskies’ first as an independent program.

Trevor Lawrence, Justin Fields, others join in

The players’ #WeWantToPlay statement, Michigan cornerback Hunter Reynolds told Yahoo Sports, “wasn't necessarily a statement that encompassed the feeling of all athletes,” Reynolds said. “It was more so a statement that, if a player chose to, he could put out to support.” And many – football players and others, from Power 5 conferences and elsewhere – immediately did just that.

Lawrence had been extremely vocal earlier on social media on Sunday, too.

Coronavirus in college football

Multiple programs have halted workouts and two Big Ten schools even quarantined their entire teams due to coronavirus outbreaks already. Rutgers’ football team was quarantined after an outbreak that was linked to a party hosted late last month.

A group of Colorado State players were reportedly unhappy with how the school was handling the pandemic — one player even called it a cover-up — and several high profile players have already opted out of the season.

The problem isn’t exclusive to football, either. Louisville dismissed three men’s soccer players last week after throwing a party that led to an outbreak and the shutdown of four teams at the university.

There were more than five million confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the United States as of Sunday night, according to The New York Times, and more than 162,000 deaths attributed to it. The country has seen nearly 54,000 new cases a day over the past week — which is down from more than 66,000 a day last month — though is still averaging more than 1,000 deaths each day.

While there are plenty of logistical hurdles that need to be cleared in order for there to safely be collegiate sports this fall — and immense uncertainty still surrounding college football — at least some players have opted to take matters into their own hands instead.

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