At least two Georgia Tech football players wrote messages on their uniforms Saturday in support of the National College Players Association, an organization that seeks NCAA reform in areas such as player safety and compensation.
Tech sophomore quarterback Vad Lee and linebacker Jeremiah Attaochu each had “APU” written on their gear. The acronym stands for “All Players United,” the NCPA’s campaign to fight what it considers the NCAA’s unjust rules for athletes.
After Tech’s 28-20 victory over North Carolina, Lee and Attaochu said teammate Isaiah Johnson asked them to wear the slogans. Both players said Johnson, a senior safety, is affiliated with the NCPA.
“We are just supporting our teammate,” Lee said.
Johnson, who hasn’t played this season while recovering from knee surgery, wasn’t available for comment. It wasn’t clear how many other players joined the protest.
Attaochu said he wasn’t familiar with the NCPA’s goals. But he said that, for example, his parents have been able to attend one Tech home game in his three-plus seasons because of financial constraints.
“I’m not saying I want anything (extravagant),” he said. “Trust me, I’m blessed. But I know there are guys out there, like, I have to come out of my pocket to fly back home (to Washington, D.C.). I don’t get to go home that often, and when I do it breaks the bank. Little things like that.”
Ramogi Huma, the NCPA president, told ESPN.com that players on at least four BCS teams with nationally televised games Saturday expressed interest in joining the protest. ESPN.com reported that at least five Georgia football players wrote the APU slogan on their gear during the Bulldogs’ game against North Texas at Sanford Stadium.
Among the APU campaign’s goals, according to the NCPA website, is supporting players who joined lawsuits against the NCAA regarding concussions and compensation for use of players’ images and likenesses. The NCPA seeks to direct a portion of television revenue to “guarantee basic protections” for athletes.
Coach Paul Johnson scoffed when asked if he was aware of his players joining the protest.
“No, I wasn’t aware of it,” he said. “I can assure you that now that I am aware of it, we will talk to (players) about it.”
According to U.S. Department of Education data, Tech’s football program generated about $32 million in revenue in 2012 against $17.5 million in expenses. Johnson signed a seven-year, $17.7 million contract in 2009.
In March, the NCPA and the sports-management department at Drexel University released the findings of a joint study that concluded basketball and football player at major programs generate revenue that far exceeds the value of their scholarships. The study alleges that the NCAA “uses amateurism as a tool to deny revenue athletes billions of dollars per year that they would otherwise receive in a fair market.”