The headline for today very quickly shifted. The cancellation of the season seemed not just imminent, it seemed like the only possible outcome. But if you’ve been paying attention recently, players across the country have been using their voice and platform more than ever before. They’ve been speaking out about social justice issues, but most recently about the threat of COVID-19.
First, the players of the PAC-12 issued a joint statement about their concerns for adequate player safety mechanisms to be put in place. Over the weekend it seemed like a foregone conclusion that football (or any other fall sport) was not going to happen. Then Trevor Lawrence spoke up, to reporters and also on Twitter:
I don’t know about y’all, but we want to play.— Trevor Lawrence (@Trevorlawrencee) August 8, 2020
This seemed to have been the spark behind a grassroots effort that formed on Sunday, as Power 5 players from across the country spoke up with the #WeWantToPlay hashtag. NC State football players joined in, led by quarterback Devin Leary:
Notable players like Lawrence and Ohio State’s Justin Fields surely helped swing the momentum behind the players being allowed a say in whether they play.
That graphic describes a joint effort across the Power 5 conferences, addressing the needs of the Pac-12 players. Then, in a surprising addition, also calls for the eventual formation of a College Football Players Association:
Other noteworthy P5 players who shared this graphic this morning include Alabama RB Najee Harris, Miami QB D’Eriq King, Oklahoma QB Spencer Rattler, Texas WR Tarik Black. Additionally, one of the players behind the Pac-12 #WeAreUnited movement, California OT Jake Curhan, also joined in, while retweeting several other players doing the same.
This all happened very quickly, and the players seem to have organized this all themselves. According to Clemson RB Darien Rencher, he and Lawrence spoke with representatives (we assume this means players) from across the Power 5 to put this together.
@Trevorlawrencee & I got together with representatives from every Power 5 conference via Zoom Call and this is what we decided upon— (@D_Rench_) August 10, 2020
Pac 12 movement and #BigTenUnited were in collaboration with us. All together — a step toward one collective voice
Several players have already chosen to opt-out of the season, choosing to focus on their preparation for the NFL draft. Lawrence is the notable exception. The likely top pick really seems to love playing college football. Honestly, Philip Rivers was the same way, just saying. He could very easily have backed out and nobody would have questioned his decision. To advocate for college players rights and possibly swing the momentum away from a canceled season is something he didn’t have to do, but chose to do.
Time will tell if this movement results in swaying any decision makers. It has been fascinating to watch from the peanut gallery. Many of the players are saying that they feel safer being around their team and the medical staff rather than being at home. Whatever they decide, we just hope that player safety is paramount. More to come on this I’m sure.