Dabo Swinney Backs College Football Players Wanting to Play Season

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney has voiced his support for the college football players who have organized a movement to ensure the current season goes ahead, despite the ongoing threat posed by the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Tigers quarterback Trevor Lawrence and running back Darien Rencher are among the headline figures of the movement, which has set out a list of points it wants conferences commissioners to address.

Speaking to reporters on Monday, Swinney said he would "absolutely" be supportive of players organizing.

"I think it would be great [...] that's different from a union," he said, as per Matt Connolly of South Carolina-based newspaper The State. "I will say that."

Swinney's support is significant as the two-time national title winner had previously indicated he would be against anything that may make college football look more like NFL from the standpoint of a players' union.

"They may want to professionalize college athletics," he told ESPN last year. "Well, then, maybe I'll go to the pros.

"If I'm going to coach pro football, I might as well do that. I may get a terrible president or a terrible athletic director one day. I don't know."

On Sunday night, in a series of tweets Lawrence said he felt players would be safer within their college programs instead of being back home.

"People are at just as much, if not more risk, if we don't play," the Heisman Trophy hopeful wrote.

"Players will all be sent home to their own communities where social distancing is highly unlikely and medical care and expenses will be placed on the families if they were to contract COVID-19."

In a subsequent tweet Lawrence, who led the Tigers to the national title in 2019 and has been touted as a potential first overall pick for the NFL Draft next year, shared a statement on Twitter in which players called for "mandated health and safety procedures against COVID-19" to be established and for them to be given the chance to opt out of the season.

Rencher was among the several players—along with Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields and University of Miami quarterback Deriq King and Alabama running back Najee Harris—who shared the same message on Twitter, adding the #WeWantToPlay hashtag at the end of their statements.

The group soon joined forces with a separate movement including several players from the Big Ten and other conferences, who last week made similar requests by using the #WeAreUnited hashtag.

The latter movement began after approximately 400 Pac-12 players last week published a list of demands and warned they would consider sitting out practice and potentially even games if executives weren't willing to address their concerns.

On Sunday, members of both groups, including Lawrence and Rencher participated in a conference call and agreed to move forward as one.

"We just wanted to bring about unity," Rencher said. "I think seeing other players across the country, it's not like we were saying different things."

The movement received support from several players and even President Donald Trump.

"The student-athletes have worked too hard for the season to be cancelled," Trump wrote as he retweeted Lawrence's statement on Monday.

A few hours later, the President reiterated the message: "Play college football!," he tweeted.

With cases of COVID-19 still spreading rapidly across the U.S., the prospect of seeing college football in the fall is growing more unlikely by the day.

On Sunday, commissioners from the Power 5 conferences—the Atlantic Coast Conference, Big 12, Pac-12, Big Ten and Southeastern Conference—held an emergency meeting to determine the fate of the upcoming season.

A day later, the Detroit Free Press reported the Big Ten will officially cancel the season on Tuesday. On the same day, sports radio host Dan Patrick said Iowa and Nebraska were the only two of the 14 Big Ten schools to have voted in favor of the season going ahead.

He added the Pac-12 will join the Big Ten in canceling the season on Tuesday.

"The Big Ten and Pac-12 will cancel their football seasons tomorrow [Tuesday]," Patrick said.

"The ACC and the Big 12 are on the fence. The SEC is trying to get a delay to have teams join them [and play]. The SEC is looking at exclusive TV contracts."

Dabo Swinney, Clemson
Dabo Swinney, head coach of the Clemson Tigers, looks on against the LSU Tigers in the College Football Playoff National Championship game at Mercedes Benz Superdome on January 13 in New Orleans, Louisiana. Kevin C. Cox/Getty
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