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It's a story conjoining the issues of the year, meaning the pandemic and black lives deserving to matter more.

Thirteen mostly black college football players from 10 football-factory universities in the blue-state Pacific 12 conference have formed We Are United.

They complain they are being forced without real remuneration to engage in a high-contact sport this fall to serve the financial well-being of the colleges not paying them. They cite the risk to their health from a virus that thrives in the kinds of large close-contract groupings required by the game of football. They've issued a statement of boycott and demand.

I've long thought big-time college football thrives by exploiting mostly black athletes, subjecting them to risks of severe injury while luring them with the usually remote possibility of eventual professional wealth.

I've long thought the exploitation occurred so that old white guys could spend their autumn Saturdays submerged in easy chairs watching these gladiatorial spectacles on large high-definition home screens.

I tend to lounge there like so many others, beholding the culture of pageantry and uncommon athletic prowess from deep couch-potato-hood. I critique the players and the coaching. I root for Vanderbilt and against Alabama. I differ from other Arkansas viewers only in that I've come to guffaw at the hapless Razorbacks.

And I keep wishing someone would bring me more guacamole and another beverage so that I needn't exert myself during the timeouts.

I've always thought it fitting that this exploitation model is grandest in the old Confederacy.

And it's telling that the new resistance springs up not down here, but out there on the West Coast.

These 13 players have signed a statement that they will not play next season unless their universities accede to certain requirements, and perhaps not at all.

Among the demands: that they may take the season off because of health concerns without losing their scholarships; that they not be forced to sign virus waivers; that they can transfer one time without the penalty of a year's nonparticipation, and that Stanford, for example, be required to tap its endowed billions to keep afloat other sports typically underwritten by the TV riches flowing from football.

They also want their scholarships--not their competition eligibilities, to be clear--to cover up to six years of schooling because degree tracks can take that long considering the time devoted to their full-time job of serving the university's financial interest in football.

Their statement explains that football requires 80 athletes standing in close quarters on a sideline, with 22 of them on the field at a time engaging by the rules of combat in the antithesis of social distancing.

There is no social distancing in football, unless we're talking about Razorback defensive backs trying to cover SEC receivers.

A spokesman said the players have colleagues who feel the same among players in conferences across the country, including the Southeastern Conference.

And that is where they stopped preaching and started meddling.

The SEC is where the TV entertainment soars, beginning with Act 1 at 11 a.m. and continuing with Act 2 at 2:30 p.m. and starting the final act at 6:30 p.m.

After a Saturday of all that, leaving one nearly comatose, a mere extension of the easy chair, the late-night Pac-12 game typically is an anti-climax, superfluous, a real snoozer.

Anyway, the West Coast can take or leave college football, considering the abundance of entertainment and activities that the region offers otherwise. In Alabama, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Mississippi, not to mention Tennessee and South Carolina, or, for that matter, Texas and Georgia, and I'd even add Florida, you'd best not mess with televised college football on autumn Saturdays.

If the good white folks in those environs are denied the chance to cheer for the exploits of the wondrous young black athletes employed without pay by their local universities that the good white folks embrace but never themselves attended--well, they'll be expecting their noble Southern president, the one from Queens and Manhattan, to intervene with an executive order.

And he'd do it, no doubt, understanding that red-state exploitation of black athletes is part of his base.

John Brummett, whose column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, is a member of the Arkansas Writers' Hall of Fame. Email him at [email protected] Read his @johnbrummett Twitter feed.

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