College Football Players Mark Gear in Protest of NCAA

Brian Leigh@@BLeighDATFeatured ColumnistSeptember 21, 2013

Of all the loathsome, corrupt, exploitative conglomerates in the world of high-profile sports—and there are many—perhaps none holds worse public esteem than the NCAA.

And college athletes are sick of it.

According to Tom Farrey of ESPN's Outside the Lines, Georgia Tech players made a gesture in support of student-athletes on Saturday, taking the field against North Carolina with the letters APU—"All Players United"—scrawled across their wristbands.

Per the report:

Ramogi Huma, [National College Players Association] president, told Outside the Lines that the gesture was months in the making, with players from across the country having participated in weekly conference calls. He said high-profile players on other BCS teams that compete later Saturday have expressed interest in participating as well.

Though no one specific instance has been cited as the catalyst for reform, Farrey reports that the National College Players Association (NCPA) mentions both concussion research and the Ed O'Bannon lawsuit, which charges that the NCAA has been exploiting players' likeness for profit.

Many will argue that a college scholarship should be enough compensation for student-athletes.

But the players feel they are risking their livelihood every time they strap on a helmet, playing a game that can (and far too often does) alter future brain function. Every time the whistle blows, they stand the chance of suffering a life-changing injury, all in service of the fans who pay to see them.

The NCAA doesn't allow those students to profit off their sacrifices, citing archaic rules about purity and amateurism to keep revenue out of their hands. The guys wearing suits—men who risk their bodies for nothing—are the ones reaping fiscal benefits, while players like those on Georgia Tech, who are one hit away from life in a wheelchair, are disallowed from cutting a check.

These issues of exploitation have been argued for a long time, but in light of the O'Bannon lawsuit, they appear to (finally) be coming to a head.

"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."

Current college students and the NCPA are ready to band in solidarity, take a stand against the NCAA and galvanize some much-needed change.