By Ken Reed

The World Players Association (WPA), which is a collection of more than 100 player organizations across the globe that represent 85,000 professional athletes, unveiled a “Universal Declaration of Player Rights” earlier this month. The declaration is designed “to protect players from ongoing and systemic human rights violations in global sport.”

The NFL, NBA, NHL and MLB player associations are members of the WPA, as are player associations in over 60 other countries.

“Men and women from around the world commit their bodies and minds to sport that in almost every case becomes a full time job. The reality is that while we love the game and the people who play it we can never forget that it is the men and women whose work gives us our sport. These union leaders have dedicated themselves to ensuring that all athletes have basic human rights we all deserve,” said DeMaurice Smith, Executive Director of the NFL Players Association and Executive Committee member of the World Players Association.

There are multiple principles laid out in the Declaration, which is intended to reform the governance of sport in every country, including the following:

– Every player is entitled to equality of opportunity in the pursuit of sport without distinction of any kind and free of discrimination, harassment and violence.

– Every player has the right to freedom of opinion and expression.

– The rights of every child athlete must be protected.

– Every player has the right to share fairly in the economic activity and wealth of his or her sport which players have helped generate, underpinned by fair and just pay and working conditions.

– Every player has the right to organise and collectively bargain.

– Every player is entitled to have his or her name, image and performance protected. A player’s name, image and performance may only be commercially utilised with his or her consent, voluntarily given.

– Every player has the right to a private life, privacy and protection in relation to the collection, storage and transfer of personal data.

– Every player must be able to access an effective remedy when his or her human rights are not respected and upheld. This is particularly crucial given the highly skilled yet short term and precarious nature of the athletic career.

“The rule books of world sport impose thousands of pages of onerous obligations, but none clearly spell out the internationally recognised human rights of athletes,” said Brendan Schwab, Executive Director of the World Players Association.

“The result is an unjust system of sports law that lacks legitimacy and fails to protect the very people who sit at the heart of sport. We are making it clear that athlete rights can no longer be ignored. They must be able to quickly access justice.”

You can learn more about the WPA at

— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


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