Justice for student-athletes

The players at Grambling State deserve better from their school.

The tension between student-athletes and the NCAA reached new heights last week when Grambling State University football players refused to travel for their scheduled game against Jackson State on Saturday.

The players at Grambling State — a Division I school in Louisiana — were protesting the poor conditions of the athletic complex, citing issues with mold and mildew. Players also said poorly cleaned uniforms increased their risk of staph infection. The floor of the weight room is coming apart, and the attempt of former coach Doug Williams (fired last month) to replace it was met with opposition from school administration, players said. Because the money used to purchase the new floor was not filtered through the school’s foundation, it was decided that it could not be installed and was stored in a building nearby, Sports Illustrated reported.

No longer wishing to play in these conditions, the players bravely took a stand and refused to play. In a column, Ramogi Huma, the president of the National College Players Association, told New York Times columnist William Rhoden, “The powers that be in the NCAA are taking notice because their worst fear has just happened, at Grambling State.”

While the players announced Monday they would end the boycott, their decision to take a stand should have long-term effects on the league. When the health, safety and respect for the human dignity of college athletes is tarnished, players should remind their school that they’re more than just objects for entertainment.

The situation at Grambling State is extraordinary, and college athletes shouldn’t refuse to play in protest, unless the circumstances are extreme. Simply creating a dialogue with the leadership is generally more beneficial to all parties involved. However, the protest at Grambling State should serve as a reminder to the NCAA that while it may have the money, most of the power in college sports ultimately lies with the players.