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The Kids Are Alright

2020 NCAA Division I Football Championship Photo by Jamie Schwaberow/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

You see that face Mark Emmert’s making in the picture above? The one that looks like he just inhaled the World’s largest fart? Well I’m happy to report that’s the face he’s making this morning, and the players are the reason why.

If you went to bed early on Sunday evening you missed a night in the college football world that had the energy of a PAC-12 After Dark shootout on methamphetamine.

Let’s set the mood. Siri, crank that shit...

On Sunday it was reported that Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren and a majority of the conference’s institutions are in favor of cancelling the Fall football season. Sports Illustrated’s Pat Forde and Ross Dellenger reported that the conference plans to reach out to the rest of college football’s major conferences to organize a cancellation of the entire fall football season.

All hell broke loose, and tons of FBS players started sharing #WeWantToPlay all over Twitter.

Predictably, there were strong reactions to the movement.

The members of college football media who have spent the majority of 2020 downplaying the realities of Covid-19 and implying that it’s an attack on logic and freedom to take basic safety measures used the moment to try and affirm that they’ve been right all along.

“Football should be played, damn the virus and the torpedoes!”

The members of college football media who have spent the majority of 2020 using the virus as an opportunity to create a false sense of superiority took the predictable path of saying that those who want to see a season played should have thought about that when they weren’t wearing a mask and quarantining at home. Who knew it was impossible to be a responsible citizen AND want to see college football games played this year? Predictably, Twitter was full of blue-checkmarks saying that the players who want to play don’t know what’s good for them.

“Ah yes, I care about these players so much that I am going to totally ignore the words they are saying and tell them they should be playing in the spring. I care about the longterm health and safety of these kids so I want to see them play 24 games in a calendar year!”

In reality, most of the talking heads on Twitter care about little more than claiming the moral high ground, and so we had a bunch of idiots arguing over which side had the right to it. In the midst of that chaos came a shining beacon of hope.

Trevor Lawerence joined players representing each of the Power Five conferences on Zoom and created what can only be called a union. That union has a list of demands. That union also wants to play football.

Numerous high-profile FBS players shared the graphic on Twitter. Those players were Alabama running back Najee Harris, Oklahoma State running back Chubba Hubbard, Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields, Mississippi State running back Kylin Hill, Oklahoma quarterback Spencer Rattler and many many more.

This all happened around midnight in the Eastern Time Zone, and it could very well change college football forever. The players have seen over the last few months how big the economy surrounding them is. They know that the games they play create money that is desperately needed. Now they plan to use their leverage. This moment is beautiful, and it was long overdue.

Perhaps the most delicious piece of this is that the crowd who enthusiastically cheered the #WeWantToPlay movement now has to give a damn about players rights for that to happen. Want to see a season? You better hope the players get all of the testing and safety protocols they’re demanding. The “do it for a love of the game/a scholarship is reward enough” folks who were sharing tweets with the #WeWantToPlay hashtag early Sunday evening were actually helping to create the groundswell of a labor movement.

On the flip side, there are folks who are always quick to take to Twitter and argue in favor of players getting paid and profiting off of their name, image and likeness. A lot of those same folks took to their keyboards this evening and said the players that want a season don’t know what’s in their best interest. Now the #WeWantToPlay and #WeAreUnited movements are one.

Sunday night the current generation of college football players backed all of the hypocrites into a corner. For years people have used college athlete’s silence as an excuse to speak for them. These hucksters filled columns, tweets and airwaves with their own agendas and opinions and sold them as those of the guys and girls who actually wear the jerseys.

That ended last night. You can’t implore people to listen to the players on one issue and not another. Instead of “listen to the players on safety measures” being pitted against “listen to the players on their desire to have a season” it is now just “LISTEN TO THE PLAYERS.”

College football players realized they were being played, and on Sunday night they made a move of their own. In doing so, they changed the game forever. It is impossible to predict where this story will go next, but if you want a season you have to support the players fight for rights. If you want to see safety measures taken and NIL laws passed, you have to support the players right to play.

The lie laced fairytale of what amateurism and life as a student-athlete looks like that the NCAA has been trying to push for years just got shattered, and while the reality of their lives isn’t the picture of happiness that the NCAA wants you to think it is, the kids are certainly alright.