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UCLA players rebel against Covid protocols in place

We break down the news surrounding UCLA football players concern with health and safety in the program. The accusations aren’t just related to the pandemic.

Head coach Chip Kelly of the UCLA Bruins looks on during the game against the USC Trojans at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on November 23, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

Update 8:48 pm: Bruce Feldman reports UCLA’s new athletic director and head coach Chip Kelly are meeting with players right now.

Also Dorian Thompson-Robinson has confronted the LA Times about their coverage on social media, and apologized to Chip Kelly.

It would be one thing if UCLA football players had issues with how the school was handling Covid-19. It’s a whole other issue if they don’t trust their head coach to keep them safe. And that’s what players are alleging after team Zoom meeting that’s resulted in a list of demands they’re asking the university to meet according to the Los Angeles Times.

The document, reviewed by the Los Angeles Times late Thursday, asserts that players do not trust coach Chip Kelly’s program to act in their best interest, particularly in regard to their health, a realm where it says UCLA has “perpetually failed us,” citing “neglected and mismanaged injury cases.” The document does not provide examples.

The players demanded that a “third-party health official” be on hand for all football activities to see that protocols for COVID-19 prevention are being followed; that anonymous whistleblower protections are provided for athletes and staff to report violations; and that each player can make a decision about whether to come back to Westwood without fear of losing his scholarship or other retaliation.

Players are expected to return to Westwood on Monday for the beginning of voluntary workouts.

This is not the first time Chip Kelly has been questioned about how he’s treated players. As head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles his methods were often under scrutiny, down to the daily hydration tests that came with penalties for those that didn’t pass. He’s had unusual methods even going back to his days at New Hampshire, and it’s not surprising they’ve run afoul of the modern college football player.

The quotes from the LA Times story are all from anonymous players, and though some of the quotes are damming, the only player specifically mentioned as being on the call and assisting in creating the letter is starting quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson.

UCLA Senior Associate Athletic Director said aid for athletes would be guaranteed through next year, and that a department task force has been meeting daily for the last three to four weeks.

Texas football has other demands from their players, and are meeting with interm university president Jay Hartzell to determine a further course of action. And these likely won’t be the only two schools where this happens going forward.

An unpaid labor force has an opportunity to demand change like they never have in the past. It’s likely to keep happening across America.