Aerial Protest Highlighting NCAA Inaction on Concussions Planned at BCS Championship Football Game

The NCAA recently declared it has no duty to protect players, does not review or enforce NCAA-mandated concussion policies, and would not punish a coach for knowingly putting a player with a concussion back into a game.

January 3, 2014

Pasadena, CA - As part of its All Players United (APU) campaign, the National College Players Association will launch an aerial protest at Monday’s national championship football game at the Rose Bowl to pressure the NCAA into taking measures to reduce the risk of brain trauma in college sports.  

The message will read: “All Players United for Concussion Reform. Wake Up NCAA!”  

The NCAA recently declared in its legal defense against multiple concussion lawsuits that it has no duty to protect players.  

NCPA Executive Director Ramogi Huma stated, “This is a complete betrayal of any trust players had for the NCAA.  How does an industry that enjoys billions in revenue from the blood, sweat, and brain trauma of college athletes publicly state its has no duty to protect them?”

The NCAA has also stated that, despite requiring schools to have a concussion policy in place, it does not review or enforce these policies; nor would it punish a coach for knowingly putting a player with a concussion back into a game.  Perhaps this is why the NCAA has failed to investigate the circumstances surrounding the death of Frostburg State football player Derek Sheely who died of brain trauma.  When the NCAA failed to investigate this incident, the Sheely family launched a lawsuit.  The lawsuit states that Derek returned to a football drill after complaining of headaches when his coach yelled, “Stop your bitching and moaning and quit acting like a p**sy and get back out there Sheely!”

“Apparently the NCAA would prefer to investigate other issues like whether or not Johnny Manziel made a few bucks from signing autographs than whether or not players’ lives are being put at risk by negligent coaches that don’t follow their program’s ‘NCAA-mandated’ concussion policy,” stated Huma.

The Sheely family released a statement regarding the APU protest of the NCAA’s handling of concussions:

“In August 2011 our beloved son and brother, Derek Sheely, died from a traumatic brain injury thathe suffered during an NCAA-sanctioned football practice.  Every one of the 860 days and countingsince Derek’s death has been excruciating, agonizing, and unbearable.  Since that horrible month, wehave been dedicated to learning the truth about the circumstances leading to Derek’s injury in hopesof preventing other children from suffering Derek’s fate.

Given that the NCAA was formed over 100 years ago to reform college football due to catastrophicinjuries and deaths caused by head injuries, we assumed that the NCAA would investigate Derek’sdeath in order to protect others.  In the 30 months since Derek’s death, the NCAA has madeapproximately $2 billion, yet the NCAA has not spent any of it to investigate Derek’s death, nor havethey enforced any penalties on member institutions or coaches for exposing players to needless braindamage. It’s time for the NCAA to wake up and begin living up to its fundamental principles for whichit was established.  We stand behind the NCPA and demand that the NCAA takes immediate action.”

Many have heard accounts that a number of the former NFL players committed suicide and were found to have chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative brain condition linked to brain trauma.  College football players face similar risks.  Proof of this rests with the tragic death of University of Penn football player Owen Thomas.  Owen was found to have CTE after committing suicide in 2010 during his junior year.  Still, the NCAA has avoided addressing brain trauma risks.

Huma stated, “Brain trauma risks will never be eliminated in contact sports but, as demonstrated by policies negotiated between the NFL and NFLPA, such risks can be minimized.  Every week of NCAA inaction is another week that players can damage their brains unnecessarily.”  

The NCPA is seeking a number of reforms including the reduction of contact during practices, independent concussion experts on the sidelines to eliminate conflicts of interest, and warning players about the dangers of CTE and other degenerative brain conditions.

The All Players United campaign was launched this fall when players from multiple football teams wore “APU” on their gear.  Players from Arizona, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Kansas, Michigan State, North Carolina, and Northwestern have worn APU during televised games in solidarity for concussion reform and other goals.  The APU aerial protest will circle the Rose Bowl on Monday January 6th prior to kickoff between 1:30-4:30pm PST.