As the 2020 college football season sits on the edge of a knife, the sport’s top stars have banded together. On Sunday night, Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence and Darien Rencher organized a historic Zoom call with other top players from the major conferences around the nation. It led to a unified front on Twitter in the form of a #WeWantToPlay campaign that included a list of demands.
Similar to what the Pac-12 players have demanded of their conference, the #WeWantToPlay movement is centered around health and safety issues related to COVID-19.
Here’s what the players have demanded from their schools:
“Establish universal mandated health & safety procedures and protocols to help 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”
The players who banded together to form this movement are ones you will recognize.
Per ESPN, the players who participated in the Zoom call included Lawrence, Rencher, Stanford defensive lineman Dylan Boles, Alabama running back Najee Harris, Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields, Oklahoma State running back Chuba Hubbard, Oregon’s Penei Sewell, Johnny Johnson III, Jevon Holland and Kayvon Thibodeaux, Utah’s Nick Ford, Washington State’s Dallas Hobbs and Michigan’s Hunter Reynolds.
We have protocols and procedures we go through on a daily basis that will WILL NOT happen while we are at home…. @Matt_t_Summers and our medical staff have done a wonderful job keeping us safe!! #WeWantToPlay LETS COME UP WITH A SAFE PLAN TO BENEFIT ALL OF US pic.twitter.com/s9NAXVKvKT— Dez Fitzpatrick (@dezfitz8) August 10, 2020
It’s worth pointing out that, while the list of demands does include a desire to unionize, it doesn’t indicate that has to happen before the 2020 college football season can take place.
However, it begs the question: Can college football players actually form a functional union?
That’s a question sports law professor Alica Jessop, who also writes for The Athletic, tackled Sunday night. She wrote on Twitter that it’s “unlikely” to happen due to legal precedence. Instead, what could ultimately happen, in her opinion, is that a “non-union organization likely organized as a nonprofit” could be formed.
As college football players across the U.S. have suddenly banded together in the #WeWantToPlay movement, those calling for widespread unionization of the group must understand that the law governing unionization in the U.S. makes that unlikely. 1/— Alicia Jessop (@RulingSports) August 10, 2020
In 2014, Northwestern football players on scholarship filed a petition to unionize. The National Labor Relations Board used the Right to Control test to deem them employees who could vote to unionize. It is notable that this part of the NLRB’s ruling was never overturned. 3/— Alicia Jessop (@RulingSports) August 10, 2020
The issue with #WeAreUnited athletes forming a union, is there are 128 schools in NCAA Division I FBS, but not all are private schools. The NLRA grants the right to unionize employees of private employers; it wouldn’t apply to athletes at state schools. 5/— Alicia Jessop (@RulingSports) August 10, 2020
The question is, who will lead this non-union organizing body? An interesting entity to watch: the NFLPA. I wrote on this topic related to NCAA athlete name, image and likeness for @TheAthleticBIZ: https://t.co/AWMFVbUyMC 7/— Alicia Jessop (@RulingSports) August 10, 2020
Over the weekend, multiple reports indicated the 2020 college football season is on the brink of crumbling amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The MAC became the first FBS conference to postpone all fall sports this year due to the coronavirus, and there is an expectation that other major conferences are set to follow in its footsteps. The Big Ten is said to be leading the charge on this potential shutdown amid the COVID-19 pandemic. It has had multiple schools with football programs that were forced to shut down due to outbreaks this summer.