Gators, College Players Unite via #WeWantToPlay Movement, Call For Union

Demetrius Harvey

The college football season as we know it is currently hanging by a thread and college football players continue to want their voices heard, starting with a union, potentially the most unified front to exist in the NCAA.

That much was made obvious after a report from Sports Illustrated's Pat Forde and Ross Dellenger which stated that the expectation for fall sports is a postponement until 2021, effectively ending any shot at a football season taking place a little over a month from now.

"Any momentum toward playing those games was abruptly halted by the MAC's decision to postpone, citing health and safety concerns for athletics amid the COVID-19 pandemic. That set a precedent that the other nine Football Bowl Subdivision conferences were compelled to follow — and quickly," wrote Forde and Dellenger. 

"'In the next 72 hours college football is going to come to a complete stop,' one industry source said."

Now, players are pushing, even more, to get their voices heard through the combined 'We Want to Play' and 'We Are United' movement led by one of the more influential college football players in the nation, Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence and Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields.

Lawrence shared this on Twitter prior to posting the #WeWantToPlay graphic:

People are at just as much, if not more risk, if we don’t play. Players will all be sent home to their own communities where social distancing is highly unlikely and medical care and expenses will be placed on the families if they were to contract covid19.

Not to mention the players coming from situations that are not good for them/ their future and having to go back to that. Football is a safe haven for so many people. We are more likely to get the virus in everyday life than playing football.

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. Without the season, as we’ve seen already, people will not social distance or wear masks and take the proper precautions

A little over a week ago today, college football players around the country, including Gators defensive lineman Zachary Carter began the "We Are United" movement, which began as an initiative started by the Pac-12, spreading across the nation to the other power-five conferences.

In the demands, the players wanted first and foremost to ensure their safety amidst the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, seeking protections and health and safety protocols.

The newest movement begins with "we all want to play football this season":

  • We all want to play football this season
  • Establish universal mandated health and safety procedures and protocols to protect 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
  • Representative of the players of all power 5 conferences

Lawrence's teammate, running back Darien Rencher explained how it worked out, stating he and Lawrence got together with representatives from every Power 5 conference via a Zoom call and decided upon this:

"Pac 12 movement and #BigTenUnited were in collaboration with us. All together - a step toward one collective voice."    

Carter, who spoke at length last week regarding players' rights, participated yet again, this time with the hashtag - #WeWantToPlay. His teammates, running back Lorenzo Lingard and wide receiver Jacob Copeland, also shared similar sentiments.

The players want more control of their fates and have long attempted to accomplish a similar goal. Previously, Northwestern failed to establish a union that would have granted players the rights that are afforded to workers, able to negotiate their own needs.

This situation is something conference presidents and the NCAA have been afraid of for quite some time. According to Bleacher Report's Matt Hayes, it is a story that is worth chasing, perhaps ahead of the coronavirus pandemic and its impact.

Players have not had enough say in how the pandemic will affect their college football careers, now they are looking to earn some ground through these unfortunate circumstances.

Currently, there has not been much in the way of the finalization of a season. The SEC recently released their new 10-game, conference-only season, however, much of that has since been put in the balance following the MAC canceling their season due to health and safety concerns.

While it is clear that players do want to experience - what could be - their final season in college football, either due to graduation or early entry into the NFL Draft, their health and safety still will come first. Players do not simply want to play without any assurances from their respective conferences.

This movement is not only important for this season - if there is one - but, it is also important for the long-term goals for collegiate athletes. Changes will come, how soon, remains to be seen. However, this looks like a potentially historic turning point for the entire NCAA landscape.

Players are taking matters into their own hands.

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