No specific names have been attached, but the general message is powerful.
In an item posted at ThePlayersTribune.com, the “Players of the Pac-12” spell out their concerns and list their demands for greater safety, justice, and equity in college sports. It’s a well-written, professional document that makes a compelling case for better treatment for college athletes — especially those who are expected to assume the risks to themselves and their family members of playing in a pandemic.
The concerns extend well beyond the current public-health crisis, however. Concerns are raised regarding the exploitation of players, the treatment of black athletes, and the “lavish” expenditures devoted to executives and facilities.
The entire article merits review and consideration. A few things stand out.
First, the players of the Pac-12 want “[p]layer-approved health and safety standards enforced by a third party selected by players to address COVID-19, as well as serious injury, abuse and death.”
Second, they want 50 percent “of each sport’s total conference revenue [to be distributed] evenly among athletes in their respective sports.”
Third, football players want the ability to restore eligibility if they leave early for the draft and are not selected.
Fourth, they want six years of medical coverage after their eligibility ends.
The current college football and basketball model uses the lure of an eventual career in the NFL or the NBA to get what amount to free (or at least extremely cheap) labor. The players of the Pac-12 focus on the reality that the vast majority of them will never earn a living playing football or basketball, attacking “unjust rules [that] prevent the 98% of college football and basketball players who won’t go pro from capitalizing economically on what would otherwise be the most valuable years of our lives.”
It’s a document that deserves to be read and understood. It’s a message that deserves to be taken seriously. It’s a concept that applies not only to the Pac-12 but also to every major conference that dangles the possibility of going pro to persuade elite athletes to help generate the same kind of money, without actually getting any of it.