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BYU football players discussing Pac-12, Big Ten player movements and demands, but haven’t joined the cause — yet

Seniors Matt Bushman and Isaiah Kaufusi say Cougars held a players-only meeting on Monday after Pac-12 players threatened to opt out of the 2020 college football season if certain demands aren’t met

SHARE BYU football players discussing Pac-12, Big Ten player movements and demands, but haven’t joined the cause — yet

Head coach Kalani Sitake and his players sing to the fans high up in the upper deck as they celebrate their win over Tennessee in Knoxville on Saturday, Sept. 7, 2019. BYU won 29-26 in double overtime.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

PROVO — When a group of football players from Pac-12 Conference schools outlined a list of demands they wanted from their conference on Sunday while threatening to opt out of fall camps and perhaps the entire 2020 season, the bold move reverberated throughout the college sports world.

Even at BYU.

“Yeah, I mean, every player knows about it,” BYU senior tight end Matt Bushman said Tuesday in a video conference with reporters after the Cougars’ first practice of fall camp. “That kind of took over social media. A lot of guys just read over it, saw the demands, and saw that some were kind of maybe a little too out there.”

However, there was enough interest to cause BYU players to hold their own meeting and talk about the lengthy statement posted on The Players’ Tribune website with four major demands.

Bushman and fellow senior Isaiah Kaufusi, a linebacker, said a players-only meeting was held Monday and focused on the Pac-12 players’ demand for an end to “racial injustice in college sports and society” and accompanying solutions.

“We just kind of had an open floor,” Kaufusi said. “Guys could talk about whatever they wanted, no judgements whatsoever. I think the team, and this goes back as far as I’ve been here, has always had players’ meetings. We have always had a culture of love and a culture of learning … about each other.”

Bushman said he didn’t know of any BYU players “joining that movement, or choosing to opt out” of the season, if there is one, as of Tuesday afternoon. But he acknowledged it is still early and things can change quickly, just like everything else during this crazy summer when games are canceled almost daily.

“Yeah, I mean, every player knows about it. That kind of took over social media. A lot of guys just read over it, saw the demands, and saw that some were kind of maybe a little too out there.” — BYU tight end Matt Bushman on the Pac-12 player movement called #WeAreUnited.

BYU coach Kalani Sitake concurred, saying “no one has opted out yet, when it comes down to that,” when asked by the Deseret News if there were any no-shows when players reported for camp Monday.

“We keep educating everyone and understanding their concerns, things like that,” Sitake said. “For the most part, right now we are just dealing with guys who have had offseason surgeries, trying to get back in time. … I don’t think anybody got hurt today. There was maybe one hamstring tightness. Other than that, everybody was good.”

At least one BYU player, senior fullback Kyle Griffitts, took to Twitter on Sunday to voice his displeasure over the “pathetic” Pac-12 players’ demand to lower coaches and commissioners pay and receive half of the revenue.

“Try something to help your cause and not hurt others,” Griffitts wrote. “Kids are selfish these days and always want more. What happened to playing football for the love of the game?”

In a later tweet, Griffitts acknowledged pathetic “is the wrong word” and something he shouldn’t have said and apologized, but doubled down on his premise that some of the demands were “greedy and unachievable.”

Senior defensive back Chris Wilcox weighed in on Griffitts’ comments, saying “nothing is selfish,” and claiming “they’re about to make us play during a pandemic so that they can make money off us. Ain’t nothing wrong with wanting to get paid for it. It’s people on our own team that got families to look out for too.”

The Pac-12 players’ movement, which is called WeAreUnited, has spread considerably since Sunday. On Wednesday, a group called BigTenUnited posted a different set of demands on the same website as the Pac-12 players did. Their wants focus exclusively on COVID-19 guidelines and testing protocols.

In this case, the NCAA listened. Wednesday, the NCAA’s board of directors ruled that all student-athletes must be given an opportunity to opt out of participation due to concerns over contracting the COVID-19 virus. If a student-athlete opts out, his or her scholarship commitment must be honored, the NCAA said.

Also, the NCAA will not allow member schools to require athletes to waive legal rights regarding the novel coronavirus to participate in sports.

As far as BYU players are concerned, the school is not announcing whether any of its athletes have tested positive for COVID-19, and Sitake said he “can’t answer” a question regarding the exact number of football players who have contracted the virus since March.

However, BYU has self-reported 68 cases from faculty, staff and students through Monday on its website, as KSL.com first reported Tuesday.

Bushman said BYU players decided in their meeting that the Pac-12 player demands and the COVID-19 concerns won’t adversely affect their plans to play in 2020, even as six games have been canceled and one of BYU’s fellow independents, University of Connecticut, announced Wednesday it was not playing football in 2020.

“This stuff might not happen in the super near future, so we might as well focus on the season and if there (are) small changes the we need to make around BYU, sure, we will discuss that with the coaches and other people,” Bushman said. “It is a pretty recent thing. We are just discussing it and trying to figure everything out so that we can keep everyone here and keep everyone happy so we can have a successful season.”

Regarding social justice issues, Kaufusi said BYU players are united in the belief that more can be done, including at BYU. He noted that the backs of BYU’s workout uniforms have the words “Be the Change” on them.

“We have a platform, and we have a voice, and we have the right to be listened to, and we have the right to listen,” Kaufusi said. “So I am just really proud of our guys, and the diversity on our team is incredible. I wish that our nation was more like a locker room.

“There are guys from different areas, different backgrounds,” he continued. “We all grew up differently. We have different views, but we can all get together as a team. We learn how to understand each other, we learn how to listen to each other and that’s really being the change, is learning how to listen and how to communicate.”