By Annie Ross
Former Eagles coach Chip Kelly is losing the locker room at UCLA, where he has been the football coach for the past three years.
After a virtual team meeting Thursday night, 30 Bruin football players united in support behind a document they believe will protect them in their upcoming return to campus amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
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.
“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. “If our demands are not met, we will refrain from booster events, recruiting events and all football-related promotional activities.
“The decision to return to training amidst a global pandemic has put us, the student-athletes, on the frontlines of a battle that we as a nation have not yet been able to win. We feel that as some of the first members of the community to attempt a return to normalcy, we must have assurances that allow us to make informed decisions and be protected regardless of our decision.”
For the Bruins, the clock is ticking. Many players are expected to report to voluntary workouts on Monday.