Is ‘Let Them Play’ The Hill To Die On?

Will we see college football this fall, or will this sport become yet another victim of the coronavirus? Some conferences have cancelled the season, while others want to play. President Trump and many conservatives firmly believe the game should go on.

The president tweeted out several times his support for the teams overcoming fears of the coronavirus and duking it out on the gridiron.

There are good arguments for college football’s return. It would send a message that we can carry on with our normal lives in the face of a pandemic; it would bring joy and entertainment to a weary nation; and it would boost the economies of many towns that depend on football season to survive. Many of the actual players and coaches want to play, so why should they be robbed of the opportunity to do so? Additionally, unlike most professional sports, college football has a conservative culture that steers clear of politics. Conservatives who turned off Major League Baseball and the NBA would like an alternative to the woke pros.

These are all valid reasons, yet conservatives need to take a step back and ask: is this really the hill to die on? 

After all, many cities and states continue to keep churches closed in gross violation of the freedom of worship. Republican lawmakers seem less concerned with that than with saving the upcoming football season. 

A better way to ensure normality returns is to fight for one of our essential rights. In contrast to what Madison Cawthorn says, college football is not an essential right—the freedom to worship is.

Of course, conservatives can fight for both causes with equal vigor. It doesn’t have to be an either/or proposition—it just appears Republican lawmakers care more about watching the big game on Saturday than helping people worship the big guy on Sunday.

Though conservatives may think college football is relatively free of the wokeness of pro sports, that could very well change this season. Major college football teams and players publicly support Black Lives Matter. The Alabama Crimson Tide released a Black Lives Matter video featuring their famous coach Nick Saban and their star players. Clemson’s supposedly conservative coach Dabo Swinney spoke at a Black Lives Matter demonstration and many of his star players publicly endorse the racist left-wing movement.

The good old traditions associated with college football are now under threat due to college football.

College football teams and conferences pressured Mississippi to change its “offensive” state flag. Oklahoma State players forced their coach to issue a groveling apology for wearing a One America News t-shirt. Several University of Texas football players are demanding the school scrap its allegedly racist fight song and donate money to Black Lives Matter. The University of Florida banned its Gator Bait fan chant because of accusations it might be racist. The University of Virginia changed its athletic logo to remove serpentine curves on its saber handles because they apparently evoke slavery. Clemson renamed its John C. Calhoun Honors College after star alumni complained.

We could see a lot more of these campaigns against heritage and free speech as the season progresses. There will certainly be demonstrations in favor of Black Lives Matter if players take the field, regardless of what the fans think. 

Conservatives also fail to see college football as part of the overall corruption of higher education. The Right sees the universities as hostile institutions that brainwash kids at astronomical costs, yet many on the Right don’t see how football programs represent and facilitate that corruption. Alumni who may be upset about their alma mater mandating white privilege classes will still donate to the school because they love watching their team play on Saturday. 

Football teams draw students to college and kids want to go to a school where they can experience the thrill of watching games in the stands. They provide positive public relations for universities among ordinary Americans. The average person will associate the big flagship university with the football team rather than with its radical curriculum.

College football programs themselves are rife with corruption. Academic fraud is common and programs often hire tutors to do the school work for players. The National Association of Basketball Coaches wants to make it even easier for student-athletes by eliminating “racist” standardized tests for star players. Some programs, such as in the infamous Baylor case, will cover up the sexual assaults and other crimes of their players. Universities spend an exorbitant amount of money on their football programs, yet only two-dozen schools make more than they spend on athletics. 

If conservatives seriously want to reform higher education, college sports cannot be spared scrutiny. There’s nothing wrong with wanting college football to return—but you should be concerned when all the players take a knee for the national anthem. This is the new college football culture—does it deserve vigorous Republican support?

About Paul Bradford

Paul Bradford is a Capitol Hill refugee now earning an honest living.

Photo: Vectorios2016/Getty Images

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