The ‘We Want To Play’ Campaign Calls For Unionizing College Football, Led By Trevor Lawrence

College football is facing a crisis, as teams around the country are trying to bring players back and get practices underway on campuses around the country amid a pandemic that’s still seeing tens of thousands of cases a day.

For some, testing has gone well and safety protocols are in place that players feel comfortable with — particularly at big programs with significant funding to do so — while others have seen outbreaks and had to shut things down. What that’s led to is a player movement, initially starting in the Pac-12 and continuing to the Big Ten in which players are organizing and calling for uniform protocols for health and safety, insurance for players, and — in the Pac-12’s case — compensation.

On Sunday, players led by Clemson star quarterback Trevor Lawrence — the presumptive top overall pick of next year’s NFL Draft — began posting about a #WeWantToPlay campaign, explaining that they are desperate to play football this fall and don’t want a season canceled, with others around the nation joining in.

It got tons of traction with college football fans and media, particularly those that have balked at the calls for the season to be shut down, especially recently amid more leaks that the fall season is in serious peril. At midnight Eastern, Lawrence and players from all five power conferences, including Justin Fields at Ohio State, Najee Harris at Alabama, some of the founding members of the Pac-12’s We Are United coalition, and many more, posted an image with demands for this season that include uniform safety protocols, allowing players to opt out without penalty, and, most importantly, the formation of a College Football Players Association and representation to be allowed for all Power Five conference players.

It’s a massive step forward in the players movement in college football and was brilliantly executed. One of the reasons college football was suddenly moving towards potentially ending the season was the potential for it to prove that the “student-athletes” were far more than that and deserved to be paid. They were willing to call this season off instead of have that be potentially admitted, and now players have recognized the opportunity to take a different stance — that could yield the same end result.

By getting legions of fans on their side with “We want to play” messages, the players were able to grab positive support and now can issue these demands from a stance of power in terms of negotiating with college football. Rather than come out and say “pay us” they simply say “give us uniform protocols, allow us representation, and to form a players association.” That plays far better than calling for money during a pandemic, but, if one connects the dots, unionizing college football players would almost assuredly lead to some form of negotiations for payment down the road.

It is incredible to see this movement happening in real time, spreading around the country and leading to players coming up with this kind of well thought out plan and executing it so well. What happens next will be fascinating, because there’s power in numbers and for the first time it seems like a unionization effort in college football has gone nationwide.