With fall season on the brink, student-athletes seize the moment, call for creation of players union

Monday, August 10, 2020 - 2:15am

College football players are threatening to unionize on the brink of a canceled season.

College football players are threatening to unionize on the brink of a canceled season. Buy this photo
Natalie Stephens/Daily

After a day in which college football seemed to be on the brink of cancellation, the athletes themselves took to social media to express two things.

They want to play.

And they want a say in how it’s done.

Players from all five power conferences joined in posting a graphic outlining their wishes for the season late Sunday night and into the early hours of Monday morning.

“We want to play football this season,” it reads.

“Establish universal mandated health & safety procedures and protocols to protect college-athletes against COVID-19 among all conferences throughout the NCAA.

“Give players the opportunity to opt out and respect their decision.

“Guarantee eligibility whether a player chooses to play the season or not.

“Use our voices to establish open communication & trust between players and officials; ultimately create a college football players association representative of all Power 5 conferences.”

Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence and Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields were among the high-profile players to share the graphic. From Michigan, defensive back Hunter Reynolds — who helped create the Big Ten Unity Proposal — tweeted, “#WeWantToPlay and not just P5 football players. There are athletes in other conferences and other sports who put in just as much effort to have as safe a season as possible.”

Earlier on Sunday, multiple reports indicated the college football season could be postponed as early as this week. Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren reportedly favors moving the season to the spring, and is said to have the backing of the majority of presidents in the conference.

Though movements like the Big Ten Unity Proposal have gotten players meetings with Warren, athletes themselves have been left out of the actual decision-making process — both in the Big Ten and in the country at large. That’s no surprise. It’s how college athletics has worked since its inception. And it’s why the idea of a players union shakes the very model on which the NCAA is built to its core.

Amateurism does not comport with the notion that athletes are employees, with all the rights that come with being such. With Name, Image and Likeness legislation being debated in Congress and the COVID-19 pandemic throwing the fall season into question, players are seizing the moment.

If they can succeed, it’s hard to imagine just how far-reaching the consequences could be.