Update: After the publication of the LA Times piece, Thompson-Robinson released a series of tweets contradicting the Times's original premise.
See the tweet thread below this article.
Thirty UCLA football players -- a group that includes starting quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson -- on Thursday sent a letter to the school's administration requesting third-party oversight to ensure the program follows proper COVID protocols in the Bruins' return-to-play program, according to a report Friday from the Los Angeles Times.
UCLA announced Tuesday that it will begin bringing players back to campus on Monday, a six-day turnaround. In response, the players have requested a "third-party health official" be in attendance for all football activities; that the program set up an anonymous whistleblower hotline to report COVID protocol violations; and that players be granted the freedom to sit out the 2020 season without fear of losing their scholarship.
“These demands reflect our call for an environment in which we do not feel pressured to return to competition, and if we choose not to return, that our decision will be respected,” the document reads, according to the Times. “If our demands are not met, we will refrain from booster events, recruiting events and all football-related promotional activities."
The players requested third-party oversight because, according to the letter, the program has "perpetually failed us," saying Kelly's program has "neglected and mismanaged injury cases." The document did not cite any specific cases.
The UCLA document comes on the heels of a Texas letter that threatened to sit out recruiting and fundraising events if the Longhorns' demands for campus changes were not met. UCLA players were also informed by reports of 13 positive COVID-19 tests among Texas players, according to the report.
UCLA has said a return-to-play task force has met on a daily basis for the past month, in consultation with the UCLA Health System. The school has also said it will establish an anonymous tip line to the campus's faculty athletic representative.
The school said it could not guarantee all scholarships will be honored, and that all scholarships are currently covered through Oct. 1. (Colleges, of course, typically handle scholarships on a semster-by-semester basis.)
“Now, with this, what people don’t understand is, they say there’s a .1% chance of somebody dying, but last time I checked, that .1% has to be somebody," a player told the Times. "We’re going to come to a point where a college player will literally have to die from COVID-19 for someone to understand what’s going on. I hope it doesn’t have to reach that point.”
UCLA is scheduled to open its 2020 season on Aug. 29 against New Mexico State, meaning the Bruins could begin mandatory preseason workouts as soon as July 6.
Update: Here is Thompson-Robinson in his own words.
UCLA AD Martin Jarmond also wrote this letter to Bruins players today:
"The decision to return to campus next week is entirely up to you. You are welcome to remain at home, and anyone who chooses to do so will not face retaliation or ramifications in any way."