The sports world got a late-night shakeup Sunday when multiple college football players, notably Clemson and Ohio State quarterbacks, Trevor Lawrence and Justin Fields, voiced their support for a season in 2020.
With news that college football is on the cusp of being canceled in major conferences, players from across the country tweeted under the hashtags "#WeAreUnited" and "#WeWantToPlay" to demand not only a season but guarantees for players that haven't existed before.
In what could be a landmark moment for college athletics, players have shown a unified front to ask for mandated health and safety protocols, no repercussions for opt-outs and, most notably, the desire to create a players' association.
For two Ravens, left tackle Ronnie Stanley and tight end Mark Andrews, it hits close to home.
Stanley played his college football at Notre Dame and Andrews played at Oklahoma, both two of the nation's preeminent programs.
"I think they are in a rough position, because these guys, they're really not getting compensated for the risk that they are taking," Stanley said Monday on a Zoom call with reporters. "Especially this year, going into it, I'm sure every school doesn't have the resources that the NFL has. Football is a unique sport because there are so many people involved -- so many players -- and it's [a] really physical sport. You can't really avoid contact, you can't really avoid (not) social distancing."
The Mid-American Conference called off fall sports over the weekend, the first major conference to do so. Now, more conferences are expected to follow.
With so many logistical issues surrounding a season -- especially for football -- that isn't being played in a bubble, college athletics are in a difficult spot. Since players are referred to as amateurs, it's been a difficult process to ensure proper representation of the players and their rights for decades.
Now, it appears the winds of change are sweeping over college football.
"To take all these things and have precautions for everything, you are going to need the resources, and in college, that's just not the case for every college," Stanley said. "I'm very happy to see the players standing up for their health and their long-term health. They are standing together with that, and I am happy for them."
Aside from the simple logistical problems of actually completing a season without suffering major problems from a virus still not under control in the United States, players could lose more than their health if a season isn't played.
As Lawrence pointed out some players might have better healthcare and would be safer from the virus at their colleges.
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 (1)— Trevor Lawrence (@Trevorlawrencee) August 9, 2020
And if there's not a college football season, players would lose a valuable year of development and a potential season that could put them on the radars of NFL scouts.
"I know for me, going to Oklahoma, I lived Oklahoma, I grew up on Oklahoma," Andrews said. "So, for me not to be able to have a season would be devastating. I'm hoping that they're going to have it for a lot of those kids' sakes. That's their time to go out there and prove themselves. A lot of those guys may make a name for themselves this year, and if they don't have that, maybe they don't get into the NFL. There's a lot that lies on that."
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