Cancel the Fall College Football SeasonRoundup
tags: racism, labor, NCAA, football, Sports History, colleges and universities, COVID-19
Victoria L. Jackson is a sports historian and clinical assistant professor at the School of Historical, Philosophical, and Religious Studies at Arizona State University.
If American universities really are sincere about being part of the solution to ending racism in our country, they should call off the fall football season. As colleges release statements expressing their commitment to developing anti-racism initiatives and curriculums addressing institutional racism and police and criminal justice reform, they should take a break this fall and turn inward to conduct an honest appraisal of the role their football programs play in perpetuating injustice and inequality.
The system of intercollegiate athletics isn’t working. Schools need to stop fighting to preserve a rotten model that takes advantage of young Black men and their talents.
Black athletes provide the entertainment, marketing, and diversity functions of American higher education. The myth is that college sports represent the American Dream. But the reality is that college sports are part of the American tragedy being protested in our streets.
University presidents have long felt trapped, knowing the dysfunction of intercollegiate athletics but with no real way to address it. They also like to find opportunity in a crisis. Well, here it is. The coronavirus pandemic and related challenges provide the cover schools need to call a timeout and take a year off to fix college sports.
Football in the Power 5 conferences — the Atlantic Coast Conference, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac 12, and SEC — in particular has become a ticking time bomb. Schools need to decide if they should continue to host a student activity that can cause brain injury and contribute to chronic traumatic encephalopathy, the degenerative and incurable disease linked to repeated hits to the head. They should listen to players’ grievances and criticisms of an amateur model that no longer fits the reality of Power 5 football. They should question if American universities should continue to serve as the sole pathway to, and minor league system for, the NFL. (Every pick in the 2020 NFL draft came from an NCAA school. Of those 255 college players, 191 — 75 percent — came from Power 5 schools.) And they need to take seriously the legitimate antitrust challenge, and, rather than fight it, come up with an innovative reimagining of college sports.
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