NFL agent suggests players should boycott National Championship Game
There have been a lot of incidents lately of college student athletes forcing college administrations to recognize more rights and protect them in more meaningful ways than the basic play-for-scholarship relationship.
Whether it was Northwestern players trying to unionize for guaranteed scholarships (that Northwestern already gave them) and more clearly defined medical benefits or Missouri players boycotting football activities to force the ousting of university leaders for their failure to respond to racial incidents on campus, college student athletes are finding their voice and challenging the status quo in a way they have not before.
And they have forced some real change too. The NCAA has allowed for four-year scholarships and teams are giving them out as a recruiting enticement over schools that do not. A stray comment during a NCAA Tournament press conference did bring changes to rules regarding what athletic programs can feed their student athletes.
These players should realize the power they have. And that is the point an agent at a prominent NFL sports agency argued this week in the Washington Post.
Donald H. Yee, a partner at the NFL agency that represents New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton, wrote in The Washington Post the players for the Alabama Crimson Tide and Clemson Tigers should boycott or delay the start to Monday’s National Championship Game:
Change, however, could come rapidly and fairly easily. If even a small group of players took a stand and refused to participate — imagine if they boycotted or delayed the start of Monday night’s championship game — administrators would have to back down. There’s too much money on the line, and no one could force the teams to play against their will. The schools and the NCAA would simply have to renegotiate the bargain with football and basketball players.
Paying players would cost money, of course, but with billions in TV revenue coming in, it shouldn’t be impossible to find a way to spend some of it on labor instead of on exotic woods for new training facilities. Fans would get over the end of the NCAA’s “amateur” status, just as they have accepted pro basketball, hockey and soccer players competing in the Olympics.
Former University of California and NFL linebacker Scott Fujita (whom I represent) recently told me: “The current model will only be ‘broken’ for as long as the athletes themselves allow it to remain that way. There’s no governing body that’s going to fix it. It must be the players. And as more players realize the power they can wield, and once they can organize around the common purpose of the change they seek, that’s when things will begin to shift.”
It’s time for those supremely talented young football and basketball players to help themselves to a better future.
Yee’s argument speaks about several imbalances in the NCAA’s current structure — including whether the scholarship players receive actually give them the education it promises and the racial imbalance between the players and those making the money from television deals.
This is not to say college athletes do not have many advantages over regular students or that some do not make the most of these opportunities. A select few get to go to the NFL and continue their playing careers. The system seems to work fine for them.
There are imbalances though that need addressing. And as Yee seems to conclude, it is up to the players to force the NCAA to change them, using perhaps the only leverage they have.
In all likelihood, the players will play Monday in Glendale. Kickoff is at 8:30 p.m.