My study surveyed all NCAA football programs in Power 5 conferences during the 2020 season to compare their COVID-19 safety protocols to those in the NFL-NFLPA labor agreement. College protocols lacked input from a players association. In contrast, the NFL and their players collectively bargained a seventy-two-page agreement for COVID- 19 protocols. Policies from nineteen college football programs fell far short of NFL-NFLPA standards, scoring ten to thirty points out of the forty-five safety points in the NFL labor agreement. College policies were strongest for symptom checking and cardiac evaluations. However, most college policies failed to identify players with individual risk factors and provide them extra medical monitoring; additionally, no college policy reported using location tracking technology for contact tracing. The NFLPA also had a whistleblower hotline to report noncompliance with the labor agreement, but college policies did not. I conclude that collective bargaining provided NFL football players with superior safeguards compared to those for college players. Like unionized construction firms, which have better safety records than nonunion firms, the NFL is safer than the NCAA for football players because of collectively bargained practices. This study supports treating college players as employees rather than amateurs because employment is necessary to form a union.
2021 ULR 1029 (2021)