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PAC-12 athletes demand change, threaten to sit out

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Will other conferences follow suit?

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: MAR 11 Pac-12 Tournament - Utah v Oregon State Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Almost every NBA player on the remaining 22 teams made it to the bubble in Orlando. Even more baseball players decided to play out their shortened season.

However, there is more buzz about athletes sitting their respective seasons due to the health risk involved with the coronavirus.

Many NFL players have opted to do so, and now college athletes are starting to have those conversations. For many, though, safety is not the only issue. ESPN has reported that a group of college athletes from the PAC-12 is prepared to sit out the coming season if issues of safety, health, compensation, and racial injustice are not addressed in writing by the conference.

A text message shared with ESPN said, the players will sit out if they do not “obtain a written contract with the Pac- 12 that legally ensures we are offered the following protections and benefits.” The issues addressed were economic rights, long-term health insurance, racial justice, and protection against COVID-19.

The conference released the following statement in response to the report:

“Neither the Conference nor our university athletics departments have been contacted by this group regarding these topics. We support our student-athletes using their voice and have regular communications with our student-athletes at many different levels on a range of topics. As we have clearly stated with respect to our fall competition plans, we are, and always will be, directed by medical experts, with the health, safety and well being of our student athletes, coaches and staff always the first priority. We have made it clear that any student athlete who chooses not to return to competition for health or safety reasons will have their scholarship protected.”

This could certainly be the start of a movement by college athletes, putting pressure on institutions, conferences, and the NCAA to change the structure of college athletics. With the recent steps taken toward name, image, and likeness compensation, the stance professional athletes are taking against racial injustice, and the general uncertainty around...everything, now may be the right time to make massive changes to the way athletes are treated in the collegiate ranks.

This is a small step by the PAC-12, but it could be the first step toward something major. Will the PAC-12 make any major changes? Will other conferences, teams, or individual players take a similar stand? If so, college sports could look very different a year from now.

Read the rest of ESPN’s report on the issue here.