College Players Look For National Movement With In-Game Messages Against NCAA
In a gesture that the National College Players Association hopes will turn into an "athlete-driven national movement, players from Georgia Tech, Georgia and Northwestern took the field Saturday with gear they had marked up to protest the NCAA's treatment of athletes on issues ranging from concussions to compensation," according to Tom Farrey of ESPN.com. GT QB Vad Lee and several teammates were among the players who wrote "APU" -- All Players United -- on their wrist tape and other equipment. GT's 12:00pm ET game against North Carolina was broadcast nationally on ESPN. The effort was "released through the National College Players Association, an advocacy group that supports NCAA reform." NCPA President Ramogi Huma said that the gesture "was months in the making, with players from across the country having participated in weekly conference calls." He said that "high-profile players on other BCS teams that competed later Saturday have expressed interest in participating as well." Huma added that players "plan to continue to use their visibility on nationally televised games to draw attention to the effort, associated with the social-media hashtags #APU and #AllPlayersUnited." The NCAA "did not respond to a question asking if any NCAA rules prohibited" wearing the wrist slogans. Huma said this is a "campaign designed by players that gets the issue in front of people in a way they're comfortable with." He added that the "primary concern of the players he is organizing is health and safety issues related to concussions." Former Nike, adidas and Reebok exec Sonny Vaccaro, who has been involved in the Ed O'Bannon lawsuit, said, "This was a major, major, major step forward. Eventually, I think some players will form (a union). They need the representation." Huma: "We've never advocated for creating a union. But the concussion issue is an example of what a union would do for players. NFL players get their health and safety protections from negotiated labor agreements" (ESPN.com, 9/22).
OFF THE MARK? USA TODAY's Dan Wolken writes, "College athletes who feel they deserve a better deal have every right to make their feelings known." But the protest was "more confusing than impactful." Wolken wonders if "anyone would have even noticed 'APU' written in marker on a few pieces of equipment" if not for the accompanying press release from the NCPA, "much less known what it stands for." Wolken: "Furthermore, who or what exactly was being protested?" Instead of a "concise, targeted message that would have been front-and-center on a fairly dull college football Saturday, this was a half-measure relegated to sidelight status" (USA TODAY, 9/23). SI's Stewart Mandel writes if the APU movement were to "truly catch on -- either with mass numbers of players or higher-profile players -- it would add yet another thorn in NCAA president Mark Emmert's side." However, it is "unlikely to have any tangible immediate ramifications, especially given the project's vaguely stated mission" (SI.com, 9/23).