Illinois WR Josh Imatorbhebhe Calls For ‘NCAA Players Association’ On Twitter

Matthew Stevens

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- A few days after seeing his senior teammate speak his mind on issues he’s seeing with the NCAA’s lack of authority involving player issues, Illinois star wide receiver Josh Imatorbhebhe is doing the same thing on social media.

Imatorbhebhe, who led Illinois last season in receptions (33), receiving yards (634), and touchdowns (nine), sent out a tweet Friday evening calling for a student-athlete representation group similar to what professional sports, such as the National Football League, Major League Baseball, National Basketball Association and the National Hockey, has with player unions.

“There needs to be an NCAA Players Association! We have absolutely no representation when it comes to decision making,” Imatorbhebhe tweeted Friday night on his @JoshBhebhe account handle. "When they start paying kids for their ‘Likeness’ next year, the players should start to unionize.. It’s time we took the power back."

Later Friday evening, Imatorbhebhe clarified that he believes the college athlete representation should be done by each conference. 

"It should go conference by conference first. Players associations for B1G, PAC, ACC, SEC, Big 12, and all other non-power 5 schools," Imatorbhebhe tweeted. 

After transferring from the University of Southern California, Imatorbhebhe finished the 2019 campaign second in Illinois history in touchdown receptions in a single season (nine), one behind the record of 10 set by David Williams in 1985 and Brandon Lloyd in 2001. Imatorbhebhe, who was named an All-Big Ten honorable mention by the league’s media, finished fifth in the Big Ten Conference and 32nd among all FBS schools in receiving touchdowns with nine.

Imatorbhebhe holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from USC after graduating in May 2019 and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in strategic brand communication at Illinois.

The tweets from Imatorbhebhe isn’t the first calling for a student-athlete union coming from a player at an FBS school, even one in Illinois. In Aug. 2015, the National Labor Relations Board dismissed a previous ruling by a Chicago regional office in favor of Northwestern University athletes attempting to form a union. 

In the decision, the NLRB cited the fact that labor law only allows the NLRB to look at private-sector workplaces, but that most college football programs are at public state schools. The Northwestern movement nearly five years ago was led by then-quarterback Kain Colter, who said safety issues are the biggest concerns. The movement then called for efforts to protect players from concussions, and demanding assurances that players won't have to eventually pay medical bills on their own to treat long-term injuries they suffer during their playing careers.

Imatorbhebhe’s tweet comes a few days after Illini senior linebacker Milo Eifler expressed on social media and with local media his concerns with the NCAA and the lack of leadership regarding the idea of playing football during the current coronavirus pandemic.

“I just want to know the NCAA knows what’s going on right now," Eifler said to local and statewide media Wednesday. "They know that we’re kind of at risk for continuing with practicing and with the playing of sports. I’m sure from their perspective, sure they would want a college football season to happen. Do they know what we’re really going through? I’m working out with my team and doing all of this, but we’re still at risk. We’re not superheroes. I want the NCAA to know that and be more vocal.”