College Players’ Group Helps Athletes Launch National Protest

It was a small gesture, but by marking up their gear last weekend, several college players launched the first organized protest of the NCAA’s treatment of student-athletes.

Fans of college football—specifically, fans of Georgia Tech, the University of Georgia, and Northwestern University—probably didn’t notice the slight variation in several players’ uniforms as their teams took the field last Saturday, but the change was significant.

As the debate over whether to pay college athletes rages on, student-athletes from those institutions donned athletic tape on their wrists with the letters “APU”—All Players United—scribbled on top. For those who did notice, it may not have meant much, but the gesture was the first organized effort by college athletes to voice their displeasure with the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and was supported by the National College Players Association (NCPA), an advocacy group that has pushed for NCAA reform.

They’ve been using their bodies to make money for the people who run NCAA sports. Now, for the first time, they’re using their bodies to push for basic protections.

Ramogi Huma, president of NCPA, in an interview with ESPN’s investigative-journalism program “Outside the Lines,” said the protest was months in the making, with college athletes throughout the country participating in weekly conference calls to organize the event. While player compensation has been a focal point, the protest was also meant to raise awareness about health and safety issues related to concussions, he said.

“Players will continue to wear the APU throughout the season and spread the word,” Huma said. “They’re taking the reform effort to television, which has never been done. They’ve been using their bodies to make money for the people who run NCAA sports. Now, for the first time, they’re using their bodies to push for basic protections at the very least.”

NCPA and the college players are also using social media and the hashtags #APU and #AllPlayersUnited to push their message and a petition. They hope to get athletes from other high-profile schools on board.

The NCAA says it supports debate over the issues being raised in the campaign.

“As a higher education association, the NCAA supports open and civil debate regarding all aspects of college athletics,” NCAA spokesperson Stacey Osburn told the Los Angeles Times. “Student-athletes across all 23 sports provide an important voice in discussions as NCAA members offer academic and athletic opportunities to help the more than 450,000 student-athletes achieve their full potential.”

NCPA recently celebrated a victory when the NCAA ended a longstanding video game contract with Electronic Arts as a result of a lengthy lawsuit over student-athletes not being paid likeness rights for appearing in games.

Has your association used small gestures or items to generate support for an important issue? Share your story in the comments.

Georgia Tech players are shown with gear marked up with the letters APU, or "All Players United." (YouTube screenshot)

Rob Stott

By Rob Stott

Rob Stott is a contributing editor for Associations Now. MORE

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