As a college football fanatic, it hurts my heart to say that the NCAA must follow the lead of schools and conferences such as Morehouse College, the SIAC, the CIAA, the Ivy League, and as of yesterday, the MEAC, in canceling college football for the fall of 2020.
(Morehouse College storming the field at BT Harvey Stadium in Atlanta)
While my heart aches, my mind knows that it is telling–quite telling–that as our nation remains in the throes of the first wave of a Coronavirus Pandemic that has killed over 136,000 of our fellow Americans, that the sporting powers that be have yet to concede that playing college football places the athletes, coaches, staff, and fans at risk of contracting or dying from this phantom menace.
Even more telling is that according to the Center for Disease Control, Blacks are five times more likely to contract this disease than whites. This fact has been repeated often enough that every executive at the NCAA and the individual conferences knows it to be true and yet here we are, barely six weeks away from the start of the season, and the college football powers that be are still planning to play ball. Which forces me to note again that after my undergraduate alma mater Morehouse became the first NCAA school to cancel the sport, that three of the four conferences to follow its lead are comprised of fellow Historically Black Colleges and Universities with the fourth, the Ivy League, being far more renowned for its academic prestige than its athletic prowess.
(Harvard vs Yale; Florida A&M Coach Willie Simmons and his Rattlers, FAMU vs Southern University 2019)
The proverbial elephant in the room, however, is the reticence of the so-called “Power Five” leagues to cancel their seasons. This group consists of the SEC, ACC, Big 10, Pac 12 and Big 12, one that has dominated the NCAA’s Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) and playoffs due to decades of careful manipulation of television rights from the major networks. A group that, because of those television rights, shares billions of dollars in revenue among member institutions like Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Oregon and the like. A group that fields football teams that are collectively almost 60 percent Black with the best squads, particularly in the Deep South, having better than 85 percent of its starters being Black. Black starters, I remind, who come from Black families where momma, daddy, and the Grands are most susceptible to contracting Covid-19 when their star baby boy comes home during an off weekend to see his folks and eat some oxtails and rice with collard greens and cornbread.
(Pictured here are Ohio State and Coach Ryan Day, Alabama and Coach Nick Saban, and Clemson and Coach Dabo Swinney)
Make no mistake, that the NCAA and its coffer filling Power Five schools would risk the health of any student athletes, but particularly the health of the Black student athletes who could carry this disease to their Black families, is but one more example that the pursuit of pecuniary profits in America is perverse and trumps any concerns about the safety and welfare of Black people. And for the cynics who exclaim “All Lives Matter” to counter the “Black Lives Matter” social justice slogan, if all lives truly matter, then no lives should be placed at risk simply to satiate our collective desire for a diversion from the rigors of life as we watch our favorite teams play ball.
Just this week, Ed Orgeron, coach of the defending national champion LSU Tigers (pictured above), opined during a rally with Vice President Mike Pence that America and the State of Louisiana need to play ball, and that Covid-19 “can be handled.”
While Orgeron is a champion football coach, few would deem him an intellectual or a scientist capable of rendering a learned opinion about this virus “being handled.” But what Orgeron’s five million dollars per year insouciance reveals is that these young Black men who play for him and his FBS colleagues are a means to a financial end for himself, these schools, and the NCAA. A position, I contend, that is immoral when considering that lives are literally at stake. Thus my call for the NCAA to exercise sound judgment and follow the lead of its HBCU and Ivy League member schools and cancel football until this Pandemic abates.