Monday, September 23, 2013

#APU: The Latest Movement vs. the NCAA

If you missed this, several football players at Georgia, Georgia Tech and Northwestern wrote APU on their gear. Not to be confused with Azusa Pacific University out here in California, it stands for All Players United – a sign of solidarity for athletes fighting against what they consider unfair treatment by the NCAA.

I’m glad this was a slow week for college football games because this is the real story of the weekend. For one of the first times, we’ve seen current, active athletes step up and make a statement against the NCAA on the field of play.

It’s a pretty huge deal because it’s a sign that the NCAA’s fake empire is under more attack from within. The life-blood of the NCAA is the athletes and if they start to speak up while currently students, then the dominoes are falling hard.

Ever since I read $40 Million Dollar Slaves by William C. Rhoden, I never thought I’d see the day where we saw current athletes step up in this manner. Especially in this era where coaches micromanage and exert a dictatorial like control over their programs.

We see folks confess to things after they graduate, a la Arian Foster. The Ed O’Bannon lawsuit has attracted former players to speak up about their likenesses used. When current college players are under attack, it’s usually up to sportswriters and pro athletes to defend them.

If they’re speaking up, it’s equivalent to workers talking about unionization. As Foster reminded us, college athletes are workers as much as any teacher, janitor or any other school employee. An athletic scholarship/room & board/per diem/meal plans pales in comparison to how much athletes need for basic things.

The NCPA, along with Drexel University, has laid out why college scholarships don’t cover the full costs of tuition and room & board. I’ve spoken often with one parent of college athletes who mentioned how much certain benefits - including health care - are out of pocket.

It reminds me that the most disturbing part of the Oklahoma State story in Sports Illustrated was in Part 5. The way that so many of those former players were discarded and they had nothing else to fall back on. Some ended up in jail, some did drugs, some ended up at community colleges. All suffered a crisis of identity and the school turned their back on them.

True that some inflicted their own wounds but others just simply were discarded - a byproduct of that scholarship that’s only good for one year with the option of being renewed at the coach’s discretion.You go from having a coach in your home and being sold a dream in high school only to find out that it’s like the real world – you’re only as good as you produce. 

Hence why college sports is a factory where your power is misleading compared to the real power of coaches, athletic directors and more.  Not everyone gets swallowed up and most athletes do great things with their degrees and lives, but often times, the factory devours its young only to refill it with more optimistic kid.

This is why I support the NCPA and anybody who stands up for athletes. This is why I supported the athletes taking a stand Saturday and I hope more do so as well. This is why I support athletes realizing their true power as the engine of this machine, not just grateful to be a part of it. 

If athletes see themselves as connected on an amateur level before they become professionals, it will be a stronger voice in this fight for justice. Maybe this will become a larger scene and eventually becomes part of the arms race for the soul of these athletes to be seen as people who deserve fair treatment, not just bodies in a jersey who'll be gone in 1-5 years.


  1. I understand what APU is against. But, do they even know what they're for? Like so many college aged protests, it seems like noise with no real solution. But, you know my stance on what should happen in college sports.

    1. I think it's a fair question. The NCPA has been active for over a decade and when I saw their director on Outside the Lines, he seemed pretty articulate on what the goals are in terms of awareness to spark the changes as outlined on their website. The NCPA has called for several changes such as an increase in scholarship amount, reduction in risks for brain trauma and for players to be able to profit off their likenesses. APU seems like it's going to grow as players get more aware of it and understand what exactly they're fighting for. It's not a formal union but more like getting folks to realize their power as athletes to ask for change before a situation like Pryor/Manziel forces their hand.

      It appears some did not know the full measure but I think that's the risk of any college protest - you need to know what you're making a statement against and be prepared for the backlash. I learned that lesson personally. We both agree that change is necessary and I think if athletes realize it and can articulate it, we may see more pressure.