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UCLA football players demand COVID-19 protections, cite lack of trust in Chip Kelly

Matt Johnson
UCLA Bruins football coach Chip Kelly
John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

As colleges across the country start to bring more student-athletes back in preparation for the college football season, many athletics programs are making sure players are protected during the COVID-19 pandemic. At UCLA, players are now raising concerns about head coach Chip Kelly’s ability to protect them.

UCLA football players demand better COVID-19 protections, cite lack of trust in Chip Kelly

Student-athletes across the country have started speaking out to bring reform to their campus and team on a variety of issues. At UCLA, 30 football players have come together supporting a petition that is demanding someone other than Chip Kelly looks out for their safety.

According to The Los Angeles Times, the 30 student-athletes seek a third-party health official to oversee UCLA’s football activities and help with COVID-19 protocols before they return to campus.

Notably, the document states that UCLA has “perpetually failed us”, pointing to “neglected and mismanaged” incidents regarding player injuries. While it doesn’t provide specific examples, the backing from 30 of the UCLA’s football players is an indicator of how the locker room views Kelly and his staff.

The players are demanding that UCLA create a safer environment that can allow them to compete without feeling pressured or feeling like they are putting their health at risk. If the university fails to address the issues, the players are prepared to not participate in booster events, recruiting matters or any promotional activities for the football program.

“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,” the statement said, via The Los Angeles Times. “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.”

There was already concern about the direction of UCLA’s football program under Kelly during the 2019 season. In two seasons with the Bruins, the program has posted a 7-17 record. If he can’t win back trust from his players, this will likely be Kelly’s last year at UCLA.