Colleges don't have a right to restrict student-athletes' speech

As college sports make a tentative return this fall, universities are struggling to find a balance between the well-being of their players and a need for revenue.

While some schools have explicit rules in their athletic handbooks, others operate under the de facto understanding that players will be punished for complaining to the media.

Many schools have been accused of misleading the public about COVID-19 rates, as well as about scandals involving mistreatment of players and cultures of fear in athletic programs.

Northwestern University also revised its rules about players’ abilities to speak to the media, coming after a unionization drive by its football team.

Coaches seem to possess the most discretion over their players’ rights, as they have the ability to impose rules on their own team that wouldn’t be mentioned in the handbook.

If university President Darryll Pines is as committed to transparent decision-making as he says he is, then his administration can and should actively and publicly support players’ rights.

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