Pac-12 football players urge opt-out amid COVID-19 concerns

FILE - This Thursday, Aug. 29, 2019, file photo, shows the Pac-12 logo during the second half of an NCAA college football game between Arizona State and Kent State, in Tempe, Ariz. The Pac-12 has set Sept. 26 as the start of its 10-game conference-only football schedule. The Pac-12 announced three weeks ago it would eliminate nonconference games for its 12 member schools. (AP Photo/Ralph Freso, File)
FILE - This Thursday, Aug. 29, 2019, file photo, shows the Pac-12 logo during the second half of an NCAA college football game between Arizona State and Kent State, in Tempe, Ariz. The Pac-12 has set Sept. 26 as the start of its 10-game conference-only football schedule. The Pac-12 announced three weeks ago it would eliminate nonconference games for its 12 member schools. (AP Photo/Ralph Freso, File) (Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

A group of Pac-12 football players on Sunday threatened to opt out of the coming season unless its concerns about competing during the COVID-19 pandemic and other racial and economic issues in college sports are addressed.

The players posted a statement and list of demands on The Players' Tribune website and social media with the hashtag #WeAreUnited and sent out a news release to reporters. The release listed the names of 13 Pac-12 players from 10 schools, including Oregon star safety Jevon Holland, and provided a statement from each one.

Arizona State offensive lineman Cody Shear told The Associated Press the players began connecting about a month ago and have been communicating through the text messaging app GroupMe. He said the number of players in the group has grown to more than 400, though it's impossible to gauge everyone's level of commitment.

“We can't control that,” said Shear, a junior from Eugene, Oregon, who transferred from the Ducks to ASU this year. "To have that many players, we have a pretty good idea there's a lot of kids and college athletes in this conference that agree with some if not all that we're asking as far as the player demands. I can't give you a number, but there's an abundance of players that are messaging in that GroupMe consistently. It feels like the phone's blowing up every second.”

The public demands from the Pac-12 players follow a surge in athlete empowerment across college football. Players have called out coaches at Iowa, Oklahoma State and Florida State.

Players have led demonstrations, marches and rallies on campuses all over the country to protest racial injustice and police brutality in the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd.

Now, as college sports leaders work to salvage a football season being threatened by the pandemic, more players are demanding to be heard.

“We believe a football season under these conditions would be reckless and put us at needless risk,” the players said in their news release. “We will not play until there is real change that is acceptable to us."