“Professional athletes had to fight for the rights we now have. We’ll stand by the collegiate athletes in their struggle for justice until they win,” Daylon McCutcheon, defensive back for the Cleveland Browns, told a recent meeting in Strongsville, Ohio.

McCutcheon was one of a dozen Browns players at the event, attended by hundreds of steelworkers and their friends. The event was a fundraiser in support of a new organization of college athletes, the Collegiate Athletes Coalition (CAC).

While many lined up for autographs and pictures, the underlying theme was serious. “There is a real rivalry between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Cleveland Browns,” Steelworkers Union President Leo Gerard said, acknowledging that the USWA office is in Pittsburgh. “But there is no rivalry between workers. We all stand united for justice and solidarity. We are here to stand 100 percent with the college athletes in their fight for dignity.”

Ramogi Huma is the chairman of the CAC, formed a year ago to fight for the rights of college athletes. “We’ve just been around a year, but we’ve already won victories,” he said. “We pushed the National Collegiate Athletic Association to adopt real safety standards for college football players that include a medical exam before and after all summer workouts. This is just part of the new standards the NCAA was forced to adopt, but not before three college football players died in those practices this past year.”

Players died after “voluntary” summer workouts at Northwestern, Florida State and Florida University.

Huma said the CAC is demanding full health care for all college athletes, scholarships to be kept by athletes in case of injuries, and improved safety standards.

The USWA intends to fully support this drive, according to Dave McCall, district director of the USWA.

“The NCAA made millions of dollars for those on top of college sports, but most athletes go home without the dollars or the glory,” Gerard said. “This is a question of justice, and we’re here to support these young folks, we don’t have any other goal. It will bring no new members to us. An injury to one is an injury to all.”

To contact the CAC or Ramogi Huma, e-mail info@cacnow.org.

The author can be reached at bruce@admiral.cc