Following reports that the PAC-12 and Big Ten conferences were close to cancelling the 2020 football season, college athletes across the nation began using #WeWantToPlay on social media to express their desire for sports to return this fall.
Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence headed the movement with a series of tweets on Sunday after the emergency meeting of Power 5 conference commissioners.
People are at just as much, if not more risk, if we don’t play. 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 (1)— Trevor Lawrence (@Trevorlawrencee) August 9, 2020
“Not to mention the players coming from situations that are not good for them/ their future and having to go back to that. Football is a safe haven for so many people. We are more likely to get the virus in everyday life than playing football,” Lawrence tweeted. “Having a season also incentivizes players being safe and taking all of the right precautions to try to avoid contracting covid because the season/ teammates safety is on the line. Without the season, as we’ve seen already, people will not social distance or wear masks and take the proper precautions.”
Other athletes joined the discussion on Twitter, using #WeWantToPlay to express their desire to play football this fall. Players from the Power 5 conferences also issued a joint statement Sunday night outlining their requests of the conferences for the season.
The statement includes provisions such as universal mandated health and safety procedures and protocols, the ability for players to opt out with no repercussions and without losing eligibility and the creation of a college football players association.
Texas A&M football players Jaylon Jones, Devin Morris, Leon O’Neal Jr., Earnest Crownover III, Isaiah Spiller and Antonio Johnson all tweeted the hashtag.
O’Neal echoed Lawrence’s concerns for the health and safety of the players if they return to their hometowns, where they will be without frequent testing and the sanitation services the athletic department has implemented.
“Truth is we are more at risk not playing ball,” O'Neal tweeted.
Truth is we are more at risk not playing ball— Leon O’Neal Jr 🛌 (@WakeEmUp9) August 10, 2020
“Our conference has more than enough money to protect us players,” O’Neal Jr. said.
Our conference has more than enough money to protect us players #WEWANTTOPLAY— Leon O’Neal Jr 🛌 (@WakeEmUp9) August 10, 2020
Junior linebacker Anthony Hines said while he is eager to play football this fall, he is also concerned about the health and safety of the players.
“No, we won’t sign waivers . But Yes, #WeWantToPlay . & Yes we want a well formulated plan along with the necessary funding to keep us safe while playing in this pandemic !” Hines tweeted.
No, we won’t sign waivers . But Yes, #WeWantToPlay . & Yes we want a well formulated plan along with the necessary funding to keep us safe while playing in this pandemic !— Anthony Hines III (@TheAntHines_Era) August 10, 2020
A&M Athletic Director Ross Bjork also tweeted in support of the movement, sharing photos of players working out in the weight room.
“Love the work ethic of @AggieFootball despite the some uncertainty, they continue to stay focused on their craft & passion for the game of football,” Bjork tweeted. “We are supporting them at the highest level in all facets of their health & safety. #WeWantToPlay”
Non-football athletes have joined the movement. A&M track and field senior Rachel Bernardo directed a message to the SEC and Commissioner Greg Sankey, while soccer senior midfielder Addie McCain shared the hashtag.
“#WeWantToPlay even if no one else is,” Bernardo tweeted.
President Donald Trump also joined the debate around noon on Monday.
“The student-athletes have been working too hard for their season to be cancelled. #WeWantToPlay” Trump tweeted.
While players are eager to start the season, it doesn’t come without concerns.
An Aug. 1 article in the Washington Post quoted college football players in a meeting with Sankey and the conference’s medical task force, including A&M football senior linebacker Keeath Magee II who expressed his concerns with playing football this year.
“You guys have answered a lot of questions the best way that you guys could, and we really appreciate it. But as much as you guys don’t know … it’s just kind of not good enough,” Magee said in audio from the meeting obtained by the Washington Post. “We want to play. We want to see football. We want to return to normal as much as possible. But it’s just that with all this uncertainty, all this stuff that’s still circulating in the air, y’all know it kind of leaves some of us still scratching my head. … I feel like the college campus is the one thing that you can’t control.