Shannon Watkins writes for the Martin Center about a recent plea to boost protection of college student-athletes’ rights.

The fight to protect student-athletes’ rights has been a long uphill battle. The injustices that college athletes suffer at the hands of their academic institutions are many, including a shameless disregard for athletes’ physical, financial, and educational well-being.

To make matters worse, the NCAA, founded to protect student-athletes from exploitation, has failed in its mission in countless ways.

Fortunately, in 1999, the Drake Group was founded to advocate for reform in college sports.

For the past 20 years, the Drake Group has been a vocal defender of athletes’ rights and has sought legislative protections to safeguard those rights. Its stated mission is to “defend academic integrity in higher education from the corrosive aspects of commercialized college sports.”

In September, the Martin Center interviewed the Drake Group’s president, Donna Lopiano, to learn more about the organization’s work and goals. The transcription has been edited for clarity and length.

A group of U.S. senators released a College Athletes Bill of Rights statement over the summer and promised future legislation enshrining athletes’ rights. The Drake Group applauded the initiative. What specific legislative actions does the Drake Group hope that Congress will take?

The Drake Group has been around for about 20 years and we were in the midst in the last year or so of supporting a bill in the House, which would have established the two-year congressional commission to examine the need for reform in intercollegiate athletics. Since that time, since that bill was filed by Representative Donna Shalala from Florida, a lot has happened. COVID has happened. Significant racial protests have happened.

I think a significant piece of the puzzle has been Senator Cory Booker. [He] has come off the campaign trail as a presidential candidate and is now playing a leadership role in asking for athletes’ rights and bringing public attention to that.