As campuses prepare for the possibility of a traditional calendar of fall sports, the UCLA student council has adopted a resolution asking Gov. Gavin Newsome of California and several university officials to guarantee a series of coronavirus-related protections that include allowing student-athletes to decide whether or not to participate in team activities without fear of "cancellation of their scholarships, threats, or retaliation."
The resolution, which was also addressed to UCLA Chancellor Gene Block and new university athletics director Martin Jarmond, asked that athletes be included on all COVID-19 task forces; be informed about the risks COVID-19 poses to themselves and their families; and called "for public health officials to identify and enforce health and safety standards related to COVID-19, and the prevention of serious injury, abuse, and death as a condition for resuming college sports activity."
"As of today, none of the task forces created for the return to practice or competition of student-athletes has included the voices of those same students," said student council member Elijah Wade, a former UCLA football player. "This has created fear and confusion among some within the athletic community. They have concerns that their health and well being is being weighed against money for the university, its coaches, and administration.
UCLA's Joshua Kelley runs the ball during Senior Bowl practice in January. (Photo: Vasha Hunt, USA TODAY Sports)
"As we look at the rampant negligence and mistreatment of student-athletes in NCAA sports, it’s clear that colleges can not be trusted with policing themselves on any health recommendations passed down by state or local officials.”
The resolution was endorsed by the National College Players Association, which advocates for college athletes. The safeguards included by the student council should "also ensure colleges pay for any short-term or long-term COVID-19 related medical expenses for their players," the group said.
In a statement provided to USA TODAY Sports, UCLA said it "is working closely with campus leadership to determine how and when student-athletes — and the larger campus community — can return safely. The timeline and protocol that are ultimately determined will be based on the guidance of public health agencies."
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The university's Athletic Council, which includes student-athlete representatives from all 25 sports teams, "as well as leaders from other student-athlete groups, will be consulted on return-to-training models," the statement continued. "The health and safety of our student-athletes and staff has been and will continue to be our top priority as we navigate the path forward."
Major conferences are beginning to set start dates for team activities, following the lead of the NCAA, which voted this week to allow athletes across all sports to participate in voluntary team activities beginning June 1. The Pac-12 will allow voluntary in-person workouts beginning on June 15, the conference said, as will the Big 12. The SEC will allow activities to resume on June 8.
“If a star quarterback wakes up on game day with a fever and cough, you can expect him to play with or without a COVID-19 test at many of these colleges," said National College Players Association Executive Director Ramogi Huma.
"We've seen players kept in games on national TV with obvious concussion symptoms, we've seen university officials cover up the sexual assaults and mistreatment of countless college athletes, about half of athletic trainers report coaches pressuring them to return seriously injured players to competition. It will be no different with unenforced COVID-19 guidelines unless public officials act."
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