Jesse Jackson: College Athletes Should Decide Whether to Take the Risk

Style Magazine Newswire | 7/3/2020, 7:06 a.m.
The NCAA has just ruled that mandatory football practices can begin in July, anticipating a full season of college football. ...
Texas Tech football stadium. (Dreamstime/TNS)

No, a sprained ankle does not put a life at risk. A pulled hamstring is painful, but not as lasting as a damaged lung or weakened heart. Sprained ankles and pulled hamstrings aren't contagious. We're not talking about "flexibility," we're talking about irresponsibility.

Many of the football players in Division One schools come from low-income families. Many depend on their scholarship to pay for their schooling. Now they are asked to risk their lives for their sport.

I believe that this college football season should be postponed. It can't be played in a "bubble," as Dr. Anthony Fauci suggests. And we've already got vivid proof of how vulnerable the players are to the virus.

But if the NCAA and the universities are intent on playing despite the risk - driven no doubt by the billions of dollars at risk if the season is called off - they should at the very minimum give the players and their parents a real choice. Every player should be given the choice of whether to play or not, with their scholarship sustained no matter what decision they make. Every player and their families should be guaranteed free health care if they contract the virus. No player should be extorted to put his or her life at risk in order to get the education that they have earned.

In this time of Black Lives Matter protests, the lives of these young athletes - black, white, brown and yellow, male and female, must matter. If the NCAA isn't responsible enough to suspend the season, it should at the very least require that every athlete be given a choice on whether to take the risk, without losing the scholarship that has been promised to them.

You can write to the Rev. Jesse Jackson in care of this newspaper or by email at jjackson@rainbowpush.org. Follow him on Twitter @RevJJackson.