Could this be the beginning of a labor union for college athletes?
A handful of college football players Saturday wore the letters "APU" on their equipment. That stands for "All Players United" and is the work of an advocacy group called the National Collegiate Players Assocation, which comprises active and former NCAA athletes.
The APU insignia is a response to criticism thrown at NCAA athletes who joined Ed O’Bannon in his lawsuit against the NCAA, Electronic Arts and the Collegiate Licensing Association.
"That was the catalyst, and from there players really started thinking about the types of things they wanted to support," NCPA director Ramogi Huma told USA Today. "Concussions [are] the highest priority. There are serious health and safety issues they feel the NCAA is ignoring. They came up with a way they felt comfortable to show unity. This is an effort, this is a call for players of all sports, anyone who supports players pursuit of basic protections.”
Those wearing the letters included Georgia Tech quarterback Vad Lee and defensive end Jeremiah Attaochu and Georgia offensive linemen David Andrews, Chris Burnette, Kenarious Gates, Kolton Houston and John Theus.
The APU lettering is, for now, pretty informal. Players are writing in on their equipment in places where fans are used to seeing things like initials, motivational messages and Bible verses.
It amounts to little more than a show of solidarity, but that could change depending on the outcome of O’Bannon’s case. He is suing on the grounds that his likeness was used without his consent or compensation in video games and elsewhere. NCAA rules don’t permit athletes to profit from their names or likenesses, but the O’Bannon suit is seen as a potential landmark. If he wins, it could open the door for college athletes to get paid above the table rather than under it.
"We’re optimistic that more and more players will participate," Huma said. "I think fans are fed up with a lot of this, too. They might have as much leverage as the players themselves.