College Players Unite to Fight for Their Season
By: Rhea Agrawal
The coronavirus continues to surge in the United States, jeopardizing the fate of college fall sports, football in particular. On Monday, college football players came together to assert power and to try and salvage their season.
“We all want to play football this season.” The players’ essential message was a statement that immediately confronted college leaders who have concerns about playing a contact sport during the pandemic. #WeAreUnited and #WeWantToPlay is the players’ way of trying to uphold their season and possibly influence the decisions of college officials. The Atlantic Coast, the Big Ten, the Big 12, the Pac-12 and the Southeastern, the dominant conferences of college sports, altered their plans for the football season, but have not completely cancelled it yet.
Greg McElroy, Alabama’s starting quarterback in 2009 and 2010 and now an ESPN analyst says, “Players just want to be heard, and I think that schools and people who are leading schools are more likely than ever to listen.”
Trevor Lawrence, Clemson’s quarterback and a front runner for a selection in the N.F.L draft, accompanied by Justin Fields from Ohio State and Najee Harris from Alabama, wanted common medical protocols for all and the choice for players to opt out of the season without hindering their capability to play college sports. They also exclaimed that they wished to use their “voices to establish open communication and trust between players and officials.”
Darrien Rencher, a teammate of Lawrence, contacted Dylan Boles, a senior defensive end for Stanford via Twitter. They created a call with Lawrence and came to a conclusion; they wanted to play while simultaneously wanting all players’ opinions about how they could safely carry out the season. Boles said that the focus of the conversation was that the players who already had certain protection protocols in place should help athletes that did not. The desire for better health protection started a week ago when a few Pac-12 players threatened to opt out if their list of safety measures were not met by the schools.
Dallas Hobbs, a defensive end at Washington State that is familiar with graphic design, put together what was going to be posted on social media. “I found out I only had 20 minutes to save the world,” Hobbs said. “I had to get everything together and grind it out.” Lawrence then posted their proposal immediately after midnight and by morning, the players had gained a great deal of support from the internet.
“Having a season also incentivizes players being safe and taking all of the right precautions to try to avoid contracting covid because the season/ teammates safety is on the line,” Lawrence wrote. “Without the season, as we’ve seen already, people will not social distance or wear masks and take the proper precautions.”
Some think that football would be able to work if it was tightly managed, but others simply don’t want to see hard work go down the drain. Some also believe that cancelling the season could threaten the chances of older players that needed their final year to show improvement for the N.F.L draft.
The authors of the article, Alan Blinder and Billy Witz explain, “Regardless of the outcome of the debate about the football season, Monday’s burst of activism was certain to intensify the protracted debate over the rights of players, an issue that has been the subject of lawsuits, legislation and congressional hearings.”
Gabe Feldman, the director of the Tulane Sports Law Program says, “Ultimately, college athletes don’t need a union to effect change. It may be more effective in a union, but a union is not necessary for college athletes to exercise leverage over schools, conferences and the N.C.A.A.”
The way that the star players had quickly united on Sunday night, Boles exclaimed, showed something that had not existed before.