U.S. Sen Chris Murphy paired with NBA All-Star Draymond Green this week to link efforts at reforming the NCAA with a broader fight for racial justice that has intensified since the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police.
In an op-ed published on ESPN.com, the Democratic senator from Connecticut and the Golden State Warriors forward described college football and basketball as “a system in which predominantly white executives, coaches, athletic directors and others profit off the unpaid labor of majority Black players.”
“Many Americans would say that a debate over the future of college athletics can wait, but in fact, it has never been more necessary,” they wrote. “The deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and many others have forced a long-overdue reckoning about the institutions in our society that are built on a foundation of systemic racism.”
Both Murphy and Green have regularly criticized what they see as an exploitative college sports system. Last year, Murphy released a series of reports in which he said the NCAA treats athletes like “commodities” and called reform “a civil rights issue.”
According to ESPN, Murphy and Green linked up after Murphy tweeted his support for Green after the three-time All-Star published an op-ed in the Washington Post. Green reached out to Murphy’s office to thank the senator for the tweet, and the two have been collaborating since.
“It’s really great,” Murphy told ESPN. “There are not many direct partnerships between athletes and politicians. Hopefully we can present a unique voice on this topic.”
In their joint op-ed, Murphy and Green argued that unfairness in the college sports system is particularly stark as athletes prepare to risk their health next fall amid a pandemic that has disproportionately killed Black and Latino people.
“Professional athletes will no doubt bear some risk when they return to play, but they get paid,” Murphy and Green wrote. “College athletes will return to the field and court with similar risks and get paid nothing.”
They urged the NCAA to immediately let college athletes profit from their names, images and likenesses, as a first step of reform.
“In the middle of a pandemic during which some of these athletes’ families have no income, this would be the compassionate step for the NCAA to take,” they wrote. “In the long run, our debate should be framed by a question of what real fairness for college athletes would look like.”