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Grambling players end boycott, return

GRAMBLING, La. (AP) - Grambling players are ending their boycott and will practice Monday after speaking with former coach Doug Williams, who advised them to, ''Go out there and play football.''

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In a statement, team representative Naquan Smith said players reached out to several people, including Williams, and their ex-coach put them in contact with Baton Rouge businessman Jim Bernhard.

Smith said Bernhard told players he has their ''best intentions at heart and that he would ensure we had updated facilities, but we had to agree to being back practicing Monday ... and finish the remainder of our season.''

Smith said although the team will play, ''We have not forgotten the situation and how we've gotten here.''

Players refused to travel to Saturday's game at Jackson State, a forfeit, because of issues with university leaders.

Grambling players have scheduled a press conference Monday afternoon in front of the Eddie Robinson Museum on campus. The players are also scheduled to resume practice after the press conference at the university practice facility.

''We hope Coach Eddie Robinson and his legendary players can appreciate that we stood up for what we thought was right,'' Smith said in his statement.

It's been a tough season for Grambling (0-8), which has endured two coaching changes this season and has lost 18 straight football games to NCAA opponents. Williams was fired after just two games this season and replaced by George Ragsdale, who was reassigned on Thursday and replaced by Dennis ''Dirt'' Winston.

The players have been not participated in practices or games since Tuesday, when they walked out of contentious meeting with school administration.

SWAC Commissioner Duer Sharp said Sunday that the conference was working with Grambling to resolve the dispute. He has said Grambling will be subject to a fine according to the league's bylaws.

Emmett Gill, the national director for the Student Athlete Human Rights Project, said he was on campus to help ensure that players do not face retaliation from school administration for their protest.

Grambling's administration has confirmed one of the players' concerns is about travel. The team recently took buses to games in Kansas City and Indianapolis.

University spokesman Will Sutton said Grambling has endured a 57 percent cut in state funding over several years that has affected the entire campus.

The athletic department was asked to cut $335,000 this year from its overall department budget of $6.8 million. Sutton said football was cut by $75,000 to about $2 million.

ESPN reported Saturday that it had obtained a letter detailing player complaints, which included mold in the locker room and improperly cleaned uniforms contributing to an increased likelihood of staph infections.

Sutton said that local health department inspectors, acting on an anonymous tip, recently visited Grambling athletic facilities and recommended changes to improve conditions, but did not deem those facilities a health hazard.

---

Follow David Brandt on Twitter: www.twitter.com/davidbrandtAP

Copyright 2017 by STATS LLC and Associated Press.
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