The football careers of Justin Fields and Trevor Lawrence long have been intertwined.


They grew up 20 miles apart in the suburbs northwest of Atlanta, jockeyed for status as the nation’s top quarterback recruit in the same high school class, and then led their teams to a meeting in a College Football Playoff semifinal last season.


This year, with the fate of a fall football season hanging in the balance, Fields of Ohio State and Lawrence of Clemson joined other high-profile college football players in a social media campaign that took off late Sunday, sharing hash-tagged messages with a clear sentiment. "WeWantToPlay," they read.


Both Fields and Lawrence tweeted the graphic, which was part of an emerging movement aimed at swaying decision-makers at a time when the likelihood of the coming season’s cancellation is growing amid the coronavirus pandemic.


The campaign called for a series of steps from Power Five conferences to conduct a season in the months ahead, while pushing for a variety of uniform health and safety standards to be enacted.


Other prominent players in the effort included Alabama running back Najee Harris and Oklahoma State running back Chuba Hubbard.


In a post on Twitter, Clemson running back Darien Rencher said players representing all Power Five conferences met on a Zoom call before putting together their list of goals.


But in a potentially watershed moment for the sport, their message also included advocacy for a nationwide college football players association, the formation of which could potentially represent players in discussions about the future of a season or at other points in the future.


The goals from the group of players included the following: "Use our voices to establish open communication and trust between players and officials."


Labor organizers have supported past unionization efforts by college players as the revenues generated by football and men’s basketball have risen dramatically in recent years.


Football players from Northwestern attempted to form a union before the effort ended in 2015 when the National Labor Relations Board ruled that players were not university employees and therefore not eligible for collective bargaining.


Some of the other stated goals from were to standardize COVID-19 protocols across all conferences within the NCAA, give players the opportunity to opt out of the season and guarantee eligibility for players who do not play amid concerns over the virus.


Safety protocols largely have been adopted on conference-by-conference basis in preparation for a possible season.


Throughout the summer, college football players have been increasingly outspoken on multiple issues.


In the aftermath of the death of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man who died in police custody on May 25 in Minneapolis, hundreds of players spoke out about racial justice.


At Ohio State, football players organized a "Kneel for Nine" demonstration in which they knelt for nine minutes outside Ohio Stadium. The Minneapolis police officer had knelt on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes, leading to his death.


But in recent weeks, the outspokenness among players has extended to issues surrounding health and safety standards in college sports.


Two groups representing Big Ten and Pac-12 players recently put out a series of demands for their conferences to enact more stringent health policies to protect them from COVID-19.


Pac-12 players asked for a financial stake, including a split in revenues generated by the conference, though the Big Ten players did not make a similar request.


The "WeWantToPlay" movement became the largest push yet on Sunday night.


jkaufman@dispatch.com


@joeyrkaufman