UPDATE (Aug. 10, 2020 / 6:28 p.m.)
Neal Brown said he didn’t discuss the #WeWantToPlay campaign with his athletes before the hashtag went viral on Twitter Sunday night, but he was pleasantly surprised by the way athletes came together and stands by them.
“Our team wants to play. Our coaches want to coach. I think it’s important for that to be out there,” Brown said. “Obviously, a lot of our guys were a part of that movement last night, and how incredible that was. I stayed up way later than I usually do or wanted to just because I was moved by the actions of not only our players but players across college football, and using their voice and using it in a positive manner to state that they want to play.”
The head coach of WVU football stills thinks a season can happen safely in Morgantown, adding that his program has again increased its safety protocols as preseason camp began Monday.
“I’m in the group that really thinks we need football. I think that football is positive,” Brown said. “I believe that we can do it in a safe environment. We do respect the virus, but I do think we can make this work.”
Even President Donald Trump used the hashtag in a tweet Monday, saying college football players have worked too hard to have their season canceled.
ORIGINAL POST (Aug. 10, 2020 / 10:56 a.m.)
On the day WVU opens preseason camp, college football season is reportedly in more jeopardy than at any other point over the last several months.
That’s why college athletes are banding together in an effort to salvage the season, using the hashtag “#WeWantToPlay.”
The hashtag has been used thousands of times since Sunday night, including by numerous WVU football players, explaining their reasons for wanting to play college football under these extraordinary circumstances.
Redshirt sophomore offensive lineman James Gmiter believes he and his teammates will be kept safe under West Virginia’s enhanced safety protocols if they do play:
Some others, like sophomore wide receiver Winston Wright, say they’ve worked too hard during the offseason to not play games in the fall:
Other Mountaineers joined the conversation with the hashtag:
Many prominent players on the national scene have also weighed in, including Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence, widely regarded as the top pro prospect in college football this year.
Lawrence took to Twitter Sunday night to explain, among other things, why college athletes could be better protected if the season is played during a pandemic:
After players from the Pac-12 and Big Ten made “unity proposals” via The Players Tribune last week, a new effort of organizing has also begun online. Numerous athletes — including several Mountaineers — have shared an infographic created by Washington State defensive lineman Dallas Hobbs that cites unified student-athlete demands and expectations across all Power 5 conferences.
Many of those demands apply to player safety, such as health and safety protocols uniformly mandated across every major conference, as well as guaranteed eligibility for players who opt out.
The NCAA already guarantees that student-athletes can opt out due to coronavirus concerns and still maintain their scholarships. According to NCAA guidelines, eligibility questions for those athletes must be resolved by Aug. 14.
As for safety concerns, WVU football has followed enhanced protocols since voluntary workouts began in mid-June, including weekly testing of participating student-athletes. Head coach Neal Brown announced an additional safety measure before fall camp began Monday, noting that the team would be split into two groups for all preseason practices and meetings.