What a time to be alive and be a college sports fan. Yesterday, college sport fans saw college athletes take a stand and demand justice and equity. A group of Pac-12 football players announced their plan to refrain from football until their demands are met. The group announced their plan in an article entitled #WeAreUnited via The Players Tribune. This comes on the heels of a study conducted by the National College Players Association, which is run by former UCLA football player Ramogi Huma. The study addresses how the current college athletics system is stifling black college athletes opportunity to create generational wealth. UCLA is a PAC-12 school and Huma is assisting the boycotting group of PAC-12 players.
Demands Made in #WeAreUnited
In the Players Tribune article, the players state that their aim is to “ensure future generations of college athletes will be treated fairly.” The players called out the hypocrisy of the NCAA’s statement declaring that #BlackLivesMatter while perpetuating a system that systematically exploits black college athletes. The players also address the fact that they are expected to play during the COVID-19 pandemic without an enforced system to ensure safety. Furthermore, the players rightfully point out that they should be included in equitably sharing in the billions of dollars in revenue that they generate.
These players are doing what many knew they had the power to do. That is stand up for themselves and use their willingness or unwillingness to play as leverage to acquire what is basic human rights for other students on campus. Other students are not told that they must relinquish all of their rights to profit from their name, image, and likeness (NIL) as a condition of participating in a school sanctioned activity. However, college athletes are.
The players address the fact that the current rules prohibit 98 percent of college football and basketball players who will never play professionally from profiting from the most marketable years of their life. They also point out that many of the players affected by the rules are African-American and come from low-income homes. College athletes are precluded from profiting from their NIL, while the universities and conferences use college athletes' NIL to promote games and sell tickets. How is this fair? The answer is simple, it is not fair. This inherent unfairness is exactly why the players are boycotting.
College Sports Have Seen Glimpses of Players Utilizing Their Power
In recent years, college athletes have had moments where they used their power to produce needed change. In 2018, the University of Maryland, College Park (Maryland) football team had a booster removed from a team flight prior to a game. Maryland booster, Rick Jaklitsch, made insensitive comments about Jordan McNair, a former Maryland football player who died on June 13, 2018. McNair died as a result of a heat stroke he suffered in a team practice on May 29, 2018.
Similarly, in 2015 the University of Missouri (Missouri) football team refused to play football until then university president Tim Wolfe resigned. Members of the student body called for President Wolfe's resignation for his failure to address the volatile racial climate on Missouri's campus. The calls for his resignation went unheard until football players got involved. Members of the football team threatened not to play their upcoming game against Brigham Young University until President Wolf resigned. Soon after, President Wolfe resigned.
In both cases, the football teams used their leverage as the labor force of the billion-dollar college athletics industry for change. College athletes have always possessed the power to be the change they wanted and needed to see. The football players at Maryland and Missouri realized that power. Their realization has come full circle with the Pac-12 players in their #WeAreUnited boycott. The players have not hesitated to voice their support of #WeAreUnited. In fact, many players took to Twitter to demonstrate their support.
These players are bold and fearless in their effort to bring much needed changes to college sports. The system is being attacked on all fronts. The current college athletics system is being challenged in court, challenged by proposed federal legislation, and challegned by enacted state legislation. It is about time that the athletes take a bold stance against this expolitative system as they have with #WeAreUnited. As more fuel is put to the fire, the current collegiate athletics system will not be able to survive and will either change or implode. #WeAreUnited