The Guardian reports that multiple college football players at Power 5 programs say they feel forced to practice and play this year.
For another Power Five player, the situation was even more explicitly coercive. Around May, he recalls being told in a meeting by a coach that if he didn’t “consent to be a participant in an ongoing study” that “we would be setback as individuals for what could be weeks, a setback which they directly said could affect our playing time”. Players on his team were also instructed to sign “a waiver that freed the university of any liability from a wide variety of things, including the loss of our own life.”
I’ve read more than one story in which college football players state they’re being told playing the sport is voluntary. But on the other hand, they say they’re also being told questioning whether they ought to play could be used against them.
If these allegations are true, the coaches or school administrators delivering these messages ought to be fired. Let’s be frank: The hypocrisy that tuition, room and board are sufficient to “pay” these young men for the money they bring into their colleges and universities has long since been exposed. Fear of “a loss of playing time” has been a hammer used by coaches for decades; however, never has the modern game faced the health challenge posed by coronavirus.
The Guardian report mentions the obvious: There will be outbreaks throughout the sport. Chances are that no part of the country will be immune from such a crisis.
This is not a question of how many athletes might die. Rather, this is a question of whether college athletics is an essential part of an institution’s mission during a pandemic.
As much as I love sports, I maintain the issue is no. And any “leader” telling a player that he had better play or else ought to be kicked to the curb.