Trump weighs in to support college football players’ right-to-play demands

#WeWantToPlay started by players demanding to see action this season

 Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence: one of the high-profile names to  have lent their support to the  #WeWantToPlay and #WeAreUnited camaign. Photograph: Streeter Lecka/Getty

Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence: one of the high-profile names to have lent their support to the #WeWantToPlay and #WeAreUnited camaign. Photograph: Streeter Lecka/Getty

 

Donald Trump has tweeted his support for college football players pushing for the opportunity to compete this season despite the Covid-19 pandemic.

“The student-athletes have been working too hard for their season to be cancelled. #WeWantToPlay,” wrote Trump on Monday, using a hashtag started by college football players advocating for the season to go ahead.

The American president has attended several college football games in the last few years, and has generally been given a warmer reception than he has received at other sporting events. He is also popular in many of the southern states that make up college football’s heartland.

“The president would very much like to see college football safely resume their sport ... they work their whole lives for this moment and he’d like to see [players] live out their dreams,” White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said on Monday.

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

High-profile names such as Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence, Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields, Oklahoma State All-America running back Chuba Hubbard and Alabama running back Najee Harris 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,” Hunter Reynolds, one of the organisers behind a players’ rights movement, 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.

On Sunday night, a call with Reynolds, Lawrence and others led to a Zoom meeting 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. They want to play this season but with “universal mandated health & safety procedures and protocols to protect college athletes against Covid-19 among all conferences throughout the NCAA”.

The players also believe those who do not want to play should be allowed to do so without penalty. They added they want to “use our voices to establish open communication and trust between players and officials: Ultimately create a College Football Players Association”.

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

Final call

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 on 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 today 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.

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.” - Guardian

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