WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Draymond Green, a 3x NBA Champion and power forward for the Golden State Warriors as well as a former National Player of the Year at Michigan State University, on Thursday authored an op-ed in ESPN calling on the NCAA to reform its practices and places the issue of athlete safety and compensation in the current context of the protests for racial justice across institutions—including college sports—and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Many Americans would say that a debate over the future of college athletics can wait, but in fact, it has never been more necessary. The deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and many others have forced a long-overdue reckoning about the institutions in our society that are built on a foundation of systemic racism. This includes college sports such as football and basketball -- part of a system in which predominantly white executives, coaches, athletic directors and others profit off the unpaid labor of majority Black players. And with thousands of college athletes being brought back to school for workouts in places where the virus is expanding, not contracting, many college athletes might be forced to choose between their health and safety, and their athletic scholarship,” Murphy and Green wrote.

Murphy and Green continued: “As a former standout college athlete and current professional athlete, and a national policymaker and lifelong college sports fan, we are both rooting for games to resume as soon as it's safe. But we also believe that these twin crises have laid bare for America the not-always-obvious distinction between the two classes of sports -- those played by paid professionals and those played by unpaid college athletes. Now is the time to wrestle with this vanishing difference.”

On the Name, Image and Likeness debate, Murphy and Green wrote: “Recently, a lot of discussion and debate has focused on the ability of college athletes to profit from their own name, image and likeness (NIL). We both believe this is a matter of simple fairness and have called for the NCAA to allow athletes full rights to their NIL in earning endorsements, just like any other student. However, we believe this is just a baby step toward reform.”

Offering solutions, Murphy and Green concluded by saying: “The reasons to reform college athletics existed before the eruption of civil rights protests and before the COVID-19 pandemic. But it is not lost on us that the NCAA and its member schools are moving with urgency to squelch reform efforts that would ensure athletes could fully profit off their name, image and likeness, as well as get a fair share of the billions in revenue they generate. We need to seek a new, better deal for college athletes.”

They continued:In the short term, the NCAA could simply waive the restrictions that disallow athletes from getting outside sources of income. In the middle of a pandemic during which some of these athletes' families have no income, this would be the compassionate step for the NCAA to take. In the long run, our debate should be framed by a question of what real fairness for college athletes would look like. In professional leagues such as the NBA, athletes often get about half of league revenues in compensation. Instead of the 12 percent of revenues college athletes get, what if it was 30 percent or more? Those revenues could support further education and extended health care coverage, among other things that provide lifelong benefits to athletes, instead of inflating coaches' salaries and funding unnecessarily lavish facilities. The NCAA has the opportunity to be a partner in the process of creating equity for athletes, or it can continue to dig its heels in against reforms.”

Click here to read the op-ed in full.