To pronounce the coming of a second revolution, however, is to miss some barriers.
"The founding of the NCAA was to protect and benefit the health of the athletes. That was the whole purpose driving it," said Bob DeMars, a former Southern California lineman who directed the 2016 college athletics-as-big business documentary "The Business of Amateurs," and who serves on the National College Players Association Oversight Board. "The idea of controlling the athletes didn't take place until really the '50s, when TV contracts became lucrative. Coaches used to be amateurs themselves. They were educators. It morphed into something else.
"It became a way to control athletes."
The NCAA and its member conferences have a history of court cases to show it won't easily cede that control, even as athletes make gains in areas such as profiting from their own name, image and likeness.
Even if NIL laws advance in Congress, they does so on the premise of college athletes taking advantage of revenue opportunities due to their social media following, their brand. That becomes a cautionary tale for players who decide to speak out.
"I think there could be a big risk for the student-athletes themselves and what they do that could hurt, for lack of a better term, their brand and their own prospects for the future," said Thad Leffingwell, the Oklahoma State psychology department head who has a background in sports psychology and worked in the University of Washington athletic department at one time. "I mean, if you're following what's happening to Chuba, he's getting a lot of nasty responses from OSU fans. I think that's unfortunate."
Hubbard largely was supported by his fan base when he reacted to Gundy. But the base came down hard in July, when he used social media to denounce a local district attorney he viewed as heavy-handed in his treatment of protesters.
Hubbard declared he was taking a social media hiatus to escape what he referred to as a "playground of hate" one month after using his platform so resoundingly.
Athletes can feel empowered to raise their voices, but they had better be prepared for louder voices in response. They had better be prepared to sustain brand damage, especially on social media.
They had better be prepared to meet some resistance in their own locker room.
"A decent amount of teammates and coaches stopped talking to me after I took a knee," Troost said. "I had a pretty contentious meeting with the athletic director at Pitt, and the deputy athletic director."
Three years after Troost knelt, however, the locker room feels more united.
"What Chuba did was a really brave thing," Oklahoma State Biletnikoff Award candidate Tylan Wallace said as the Cowboys opened preseason camp. "I feel like a lot of people just weren't really up to it, didn't feel comfortable doing it. I feel like it was really brave of him to go out there and do that and create that movement for us. Realize that we have a voice and we need to speak up for what's right, what's wrong and what we believe in."
"It's huge to us," University of Tulsa running back Corey Taylor said. "I feel like athletes in America, whatever their platform is, should continue to speak out on whatever issues they feel passionately about."
Something else: coaches, long considered nemeses to player empowerment for fear of losing some of the control DeMars references, seem to be climbing aboard.
"I think it's great," Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley said in a recent Zoom session. "It's good to see more guys doing it across the country. You've seen some pretty big changes in some places that frankly needed to happen, that were sparked by athletes and college football players. I think anyone associated with the profession ought to be pretty proud of that right now."
Troost has noticed another important difference since he kneeled three years ago.
"When I protested, it became very political very quickly. I had to watch my tone and make sure everything I said was exactly on point," he said. "I'd say at one point at least 10 of my teammates were seriously considering kneeling during the national anthem. None of those players ended up kneeling, and I feel like the politically charged side of it dissuaded them.
"Whereas now a lot more of society's view toward protest has shifted away from being quote-unquote political. Players are using this as an opportunity to really share their lived experiences. In the past, it's kind of always been, 'A Black player may share his experience with racism, but the majority of the white fan base would say shut up, you're lucky you have a scholarship.
"Now it's like 'No. It's not shut up and dribble. This is this player's experience.'"