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Lawrence Leading Movement

By BJ Bennett
SouthernPigskin.com
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It has been impressive and striking to see so many players rally together so quickly. It is also a sign of things to come.

Recent social media headlines have offered a powerful look at just how much college football means to many who play it. The hashtag #WeWantToPlay recently took over countless newsfeeds, with players from across the country sharing their desires to continue with the season this fall. With decisions regarding sports and covid-19  being made, thousands of student-athletes have now made their opinions known. Individual efforts have felt like a cohesive stance, one potentially capable of influencing decision-makers at large.

It has been impressive and striking to see so many players rally together so quickly. It is also a sign of things to come.

One of the most outspoken supporters of the value of playing games this season, and one of the originators of the social media movement, has been Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence. Arguably the most recognizable star in the sport, his involvement comes with obvious widespread attention. The national champion signal caller has made clear and meaningful points, including the safety benefits that comes with he and his peers being monitored in a controlled environment. Lawrence has presented his perspective well.

While it's yet to be determined whether recent player efforts have impacted or will impact administrators, Lawrence has done more than stake his claim; he has laid the foundation for sweeping student-athlete empowerment.

Posting a list of desires in an image with the Power Five conference logos and the #WeAreUnited and #WeWantToPlay hashtags merged together, Lawrence's post listed statements ranging from simply stating that players want to play to the important need for health safety protocols and opt-out guarantees. He is advocating and speaking for other student-athletes and, pointing out the need to respect all decisions, a wide range of different opinions.

Lawrence also furthered the necessary conversation for changing college athletics as we know it, directly listing the need for a college football players association.

What Lawrence posted is a short summation of an idea that would create a coalition to explain and negotiate needs on behalf of student-athletes. Such player representation has been lacking in college sports and college football specifically. As the sport has become more of a revenue-generator, with considerable expansions in coaching salaries and facility upgrades, the infrastructure of college football has changed while the construction of amateurism has not. Only one side of the system-participant partnership has progressed. It's time for a corresponding format change, this one benefiting those most involved.

Momentum has been building towards a collective player entity for some time, with former Northwestern quarterback Kain Coulter boldly pioneering the cause nearly a decade ago. After Lawrence's now-viral post, it suddenly feels like an unstoppable movement.

Change is coming to college football and change is needed. Players should have representation. Given how the financial model has evolved overall, with the sport now very much a big business, they deserve more reciprocity. The voices of student-athletes must be valued more. A comprehensive reset may be what it takes to reformat college athletics or even, first, the Power Five. There are obvious complexities that will have to be addressed, some which could take considerable time to address and implement.

Lawrence didn't need to provide all the answers. He just made sure an old question is now a new statement, instead.

What happens in college football the next few months is hard to project. That said, the players have made their point. They, led by Lawrence, have made their impact on history as well.

BJ Bennett - B.J. Bennett is SouthernPigskin.com's founder and publisher. He is the co-host of "Three & Out" with Kevin Thomas and Ben Troupe on the "Southern Pigskin Radio Network". Email: bj@espncoastal.com / Twitter: @BJBennettSports