Some thoughtful words from Bill Connelly:
Every organization has its flaws and cracks — you just never know when and how they might get exposed.
The many cracks in college football’s infrastructure — from how players are treated to the sport’s leadership vacuum — have been exposed in a single offseason.
At some point, the athletes were going to push back in force…
Here are a few examples of those cracks, just from the last couple of days:
- From the Virginia Tech cornerback who was the first high-profile player to bail on the 2020 college football season: “I started having deep concerns about staying healthy,” Farley wrote in the article, posted to the website on Sunday. “Guys were going home, going to Myrtle Beach, coming back to campus, and we weren’t getting tested. We’re all together, working out, close to each other, and you have no real idea who might have it, if anybody might have it. One day I looked around, and we were like 100-deep in our indoor facility, no masks. My concern grew more and more.” Virginia Tech’s response is oh so reassuring.
- “We’re just out here getting gaslit en masse by our university.”
- “A University of Louisville athletics document that had been characterized as a pledge to follow COVID-19 protocols reads instead like a blanket release of legal claims.”
- “The same ones handling these regulations are the ones set to make millions if we play,” Daltoso said. “If our health and safety was No. 1, we wouldn’t be on campus.”
Seriously, we’re supposed to be surprised that there’s an organized reaction to this?
And for those of you who try to split the baby by conceding the #WeAreUnited players may have a point about concern over their health and working conditions, but that their economic demands are a bridge too far, it’s not easy to separate the two, as Connelly explains.
The shame comes when you bring back athletes without centralized, enforceable health-and-safety protocols. And it comes when, after you have acknowledged the desperate importance of athletes to your school’s well-being, you continue to actively and forcefully resist these athletes’ attempts to recognize their economic rights.
The NCAA has long insisted that college athletes are normal students taking in a normal student experience. But the fact they have been on campus at all proves they’re different from normal students. That they probably will remain on campus, working to represent their school and earn it money even if or when most of the student population is away, attending school remotely during this ongoing crisis, proves they’re different.
After giving schools permission to bring players back during a pandemic and asking them to take on physical risk in the name of their university’s financial health, the NCAA continues to restrict players’ ability to make money off of their time serving said university. And if anyone remained on the fence regarding whether this sport is fair enough to the athletes who will forever be the engine of all revenue and popularity, this great paradox of 2020 should have held sway.
Another way of looking at this: if you honestly believed before this season that players were being fairly compensated for their efforts, now that the COVID risk has been added to the pot, how can you argue they’re still being fairly compensated when nothing has changed on that side of the equation? How far can you stretch amateurism?