It started eight months ago with a tweet: Chris Murphy, a Democratic U.S. senator from Connecticut, told the world how much he enjoyed Draymond Green‘s op-ed in The Washington Post labeling the NCAA “a dictatorship” and calling for increased compensation to college athletes.

Green reached out to Murphy’s office to thank him for the tweet. Murphy is a huge sports fan — the Boston Celtics are his NBA team — so he was thrilled to hear from an All-Star on the three-time champion Golden State Warriors. They have been collaborating since.

“It’s really great,” Murphy told ESPN this week. “There are not many direct partnerships between athletes and politicians. Hopefully we can present a unique voice on this topic.”

One result of the partnership is an op-ed appearing at ESPN.com. ESPN asked NCAA officials about key portions of the op-ed. “Thanks for the opportunity to comment, but we will decline at this time,” Emily James, NCAA spokeswoman, told ESPN via email.

Before teaming up with Green, Murphy had already made fair pay for college athletes one of his pet causes. Starting in March 2019, his office released three reports under the title “Madness Inc.” highlighting what Murphy views as structural inequalities undergirding high-profile college sports. The reports focused, respectively, on: how small a chunk of the estimated $14 billion in annual revenue generated by college sports filters to scholarship athletes; the tendency at top programs to prioritize sports over academics, sometimes to a scandalous degree; and the lack of guaranteed health care and scholarships for players who suffer career-threatening injuries.

Murphy has also highlighted the disparity in graduation rates between white and Black athletes, and for both Green and Murphy, the fight for what they see as fair compensation is very much a part of the larger fight for social and racial justice.

Murphy, Green: College sports can’t return to business as usual

Murphy’s first two reports came out before California’s landmark Fair Pay to Play Act, which starting in 2023 will prohibit colleges in California from punishing athletes who profit off of their names and likenesses. (LeBron James and former UCLA star Ed O’Bannon were on hand when Gov. Gavin Newsom signed the bill into law. O’Bannon was the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit, first filed in 2009, claiming the NCAA’s compensation limits represented an antitrust violation.)

Green appreciated that Murphy’s reports offered concrete solutions: guaranteeing four-year scholarships; providing health coverage for athletes that persisted beyond their college years in cases of life-altering injuries suffered during participation in sports; establishing safeguards that guarantee athletes enough time to focus on classes; instituting tougher crackdowns on universities caught in academic fraud scandals.

“Everyone wants to speak out on the issue, but no one wants to be part of the solution,” Green told ESPN. “What has really stuck out to me about Senator Murphy is that it wasn’t just lip service. It was, ‘OK, this is bad, what can we do to change it?'”





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