NCAA basketball players use biggest stage to deliver message

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Lisa Moeller takes a photo of the NCAA bracket for the NCAA college basketball tournament on the side of the JW Marriott in downtown Indianapolis. Wednesday, March 17, 2021. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

INDIANAPOLIS – A social media effort to raise awareness about inequities in college sports by some prominent basketball players came with calls for rules changes and requests for meetings with the NCAA president and lawmakers.

The players who got #NotNCAAProperty trending on social made no threats of protests at tournament games, which started Thursday night and will have millions of viewers all weekend.

Following a year of activism in sports that included NBA players shutting down the playoffs after a police shooting, it seems fitting that college athletes would use March Madness to get a message across.

NCAA vice president of basketball Dan Gavitt, who communicates frequently with coaches, said Thursday he was not aware of any plans for player protests that could interfere with tournament games being played.

“Am I concerned? I would be concerned about any potential disruption, I guess, of games,” Gavitt said. “I'm certainly not at all concerned and, and quite frankly, supportive of student-athletes using their voices for advocacy in issues that they are very passionate about. We have certainly seen that throughout 2020 in particular.”

Using the #NotNCAAProperty hashtag on Twitter, players pushed for the NCAA to change its rules banning college athletes from earning money for things like endorsements, sponsorship deals and personal appearances, all encompassing revenue tied to their name, image or likeness (NIL).

Three prominent Big Ten players — Isaiah Livers of Michigan, Geo Baker of Rutgers and Jordan Bohannon of Iowa — led the way, and players from at least 15 tournament teams jumped on board with tweets of support.

The National College Players Association, a college athlete advocacy group, released a statement late Wednesday that detailed the players' goals. They included meetings with NCAA President Mark Emmert and the opportunity to meet with state and local lawmakers who are working on passing laws that could set parameters for the association's NIL rules.