While virtually every industry in the world was put on hold for a majority of the summer, the economy is gradually transitioning towards some realm of normalcy amid growing public concerns over whether life will ever be the same as we know it. However, when it comes to sports, particularly college football, the push to salvage regular-season games and schedules has only reinforced the longstanding disparities between collegiate athletes and some of the most powerful actors involved this multi-billion dollar industry — the schools themselves, the top-tier conferences to which they belong, and of course, the NCAA.
The Big-Ten and Pac-12 recently announced they would cancel fall sports for 2020, yet the remaining major conferences — the ACC, Big-Twelve, and SEC — have elected to move forward. It’s no secret that the athletes themselves have long been overshadowed in favor of the motivations and priorities of universities, who continually profit off of ticket sales, TV broadcasts, and sponsorship deals. Under NCAA’s amateurism model, athletes hold a considerably minuscule amount of power when taking into account just how much money their labor and energy contribute to the wellbeing and overall success of their respective universities.
Although these developments are nothing new, the ongoing pandemic, as well as the renewed focus on racial justice and equality, may have a profound effect on what college sports look like in the future — namely, it’s possible that athletes will have more agency over their careers and have a powerful say in the decision-making process. Players are now using the hashtag #WeAreUnited to fight for increased safety measures and protocols, and several have or are threatening to quit their teams. This demonstrates just how valuable they are to the sustainability of one of the most important industries in the world — one that has often turned a blind eye towards these concerns in favor of exploiting their student-athletes for entertainment and marketing purposes. Given how coronavirus has disproportionately affected Black Americans, who already must endure the lingering effects of structural racism, it’s highly likely that we’ll soon live in a society in which athletes reclaim their power and are able to reap the benefits of their image and talents; turning the amateurism model on its head and gradually dismantling the institutionalized inequalities and hypocrisy pervasive within such a lucrative system.