Over the weekend, a group numbering at least 30 UCLA Bruins football players stood behind a document that they believed would protect them in their return to campus during the COVID-19 pandemic. Covered across the nation’s media platforms, here’s what we know so far as the players movement has gripped the nation.
The Los Angeles Times reviewed a document that states the UCLA players do not trust officials to ‘act in their best interest, particularly in regard to their health’ stating that the school has ‘perpetually failed us’ and included mismanaged injury cases, though no specific example is shown.
The players demanded that a third-party health official was on scene for all football activities to ensure that all COVID-19 prevention methods are being followed.
“These demands reflect our call for an environment in which we do not feel pressured to return to competition, and if we choose not to return, that our decision will be respected,” the document reads. “If our demands are not met, we will refrain from booster events, recruiting events and all football-related promotional activities.
The LA Times contacted UCLA and athletic officials expressed their understanding of the players’ hesitation to return. Though assured from these same officials that UCLA is ‘incredibly fortunate to have a campus with world-class medical center’ and guidance given to teams of doctors and sports medicine staff, it still wasn’t enough to keep the 30 players standing behind the document from completing said document over video conference.
Still, starting quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson tweeted support for head coach Chip Kelly after news broke of the document and blame immediately went to Kelly.
#1 No one said they didn’t trust coach Kelly #2 Majority of players talked about these demands but only a handful were willing to have there names publicly written— DTR (@DoriansTweets) June 19, 2020
Don’t turn this into a feeding frenzy on Coach, this is about the safety of the program as a whole. https://t.co/5dVnLgulKL
It’s also important to now that players who do not attend these summer voluntary workouts will not be in danger of losing their athletic scholarships.
The players are also asking for whistleblower protections to be provided for athletes and staff who want to report violations of any guidelines and for the ability to make decisions in regard to personal health without consequences in terms of loss of scholarship.
“Furthermore, should an athlete choose to attend these events, we demand that third-party health officials, tasked with enforcing COVID-19 regulations and identifying breaches in conduct, be present at all team activities and events in order to mitigate detrimental consequences placed on students by the possible future mishandling and neglect of COVID-19 cases,” the document read.
With the threat of not returning to campus, ESPN also obtained a letter from Athletic Director Martin Jarmond addressing each issue.
“The decision to return to campus next week is entirely up to you,” Jarmond’s letter reads in part. “You are welcome to remain at home, and anyone who chooses to do so will not face retaliation or ramifications in any way.”
UCLA also noted that faculty athletics representative Michael Teitell will be around the football program often during the return. Teitell is a renowned immunologist and pathologist.
Jarmond also made mention of Teitell in his letter stating that COVID-19-related concerns can be spoken anonymously to Teitell and doctors from UCLA Health will direct and oversee the return protocols.
Bullet points from the players’ letter are as such:
A third-party health official on hand for all football activities to ensure all COVID-19 prevention protocols are being followed
Anonymous whistleblower protections for players and staff to report violations
Scholarship protection for those making decisions about whether to come back to campus
Monday begins Phase 2 of the reopening for UCLA, and this part of the phase was scheduled to begin those voluntary workouts. As UCLA’s senior associate athletic director for internal operations Matt Elliott put it “We will evaluate subsequent terms to see where we are in the pandemic and what the health recommendations are for winter and spring.”