“Having a season also incentivizes players being safe and taking all of the right precautions to try to avoid contracting covid because the season/ teammates safety is on the line,” he wrote. “Without the season, as we’ve seen already, people will not social distance or wear masks and take the proper precautions.”
Some health experts and sports executives are deeply skeptical of those arguments, and some players have been, too. Last week, Connecticut, an independent in football, canceled its season, and its players said in a statement then that they had “many health concerns and not enough is known about the potential long-term effects of contracting Covid-19.” On Monday, the Mountain West Conference announced “the indefinite postponement” of fall sports.
And some schools have struggled to keep their athletes in compliance with public health guidelines. Last week, Louisville paused workouts for four of its teams after 29 players tested positive for the virus, with many of the cases linked to an off-campus party.
Regardless of the outcome of the debate about the football season, Monday’s burst of activism was certain to intensify the protracted debate over the rights of players, an issue that has been the subject of lawsuits, legislation and congressional hearings.
The players did not immediately detail how they might try to organize, beyond saying that they ultimately favored a “college football players’ association.”
Unionization could face substantial hurdles. In the absence of a recognized union with the power to seek a collective bargaining agreement, players could turn to, or create, an advocacy group with the aim of shaping public opinion and policy.
“Ultimately, college athletes don’t need a union to effect change,” said Gabe Feldman, the director of the Tulane Sports Law Program. “It may be more effective in a union, but a union is not necessary for college athletes to exercise leverage over schools, conferences and the N.C.A.A.”