I’ll be blunt here.
“Preserving the economy” is not an excuse to risk millions of lives.
Allowing our places of employment to become Petri dishes for disease and augment the spread of COVID-19 at a time when the country is desperately trying to flatten the curve is not only dangerous, it’s flagrantly irresponsible.
Especially when those “places of employment” benefit from nonessential free labor.
Enter Oklahoma State Head Football Coach, Mike Gundy.
The mullet-wearing, coaching fixture on the Stillwater, Oklahoma, sidelines has never shied away from an old-fashioned ideology. It is part of what makes him loved in his community, along with his willingness to protect his players.
But Gundy’s comments about attempting to return to work amidst a global pandemic have completely bypassed the realm of old fashioned and come off as not only uninformed but selfish.
“We get people that get the flu during the season, we quarantine them, we treat them, we make sure they’re healthy, we bring ‘em back,” Gundy said in a teleconference on Tuesday with reporters.
“It would be the same thing here, but at some point, we’ve got to go back to work. We’ve got to get these guys back in here.”
First of all, for the hundredth time, this disease is more potent than the flu and should not be downplayed to procedures that would currently eliminate basic influenza.
If you are unaware of how percentages work, this means that if COVID-19 infected all 327.2 million people in the United States, it would kill approximately 9 million of them. In this same scenario, the flu would kill about 523,000.
Secondly, what is the rush to get these players back on the field?
How would playing spring games or conducting May 7-on-7 drills remedy this situation at all?
The last time I checked, a 50-yard touchdown pass in spring practice doesn’t create another ventilator for a hospital, it doesn’t create more masks for health care professionals and it certainly doesn’t get us anywhere closer to creating a vaccine.
The only real rush to get these players out onto the field highlights the hypocrisy that has plagued the NCAA for decades.
It’s the same hypocrisy that Gundy is trying to masquerade as an attempt to save Oklahoma’s “economy.”
These players continue to generate hundreds of millions of dollars for these institutions and help pay the salaries of many of the school’s employees, most notably their coaches.
According to Forbes, in 32 states, the highest-paid public employee was a college football coach; in eight others it was a college basketball coach.
Gundy makes just over $5 Million per year and is currently ranked as the 13th highest-paid coach in the country and the second-highest-paid coach in the state, behind University of Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley’s $6 million per year.
”In my opinion, if we have to bring our players back, test them. They’re all in good shape. They’re all 18-, 19-, 20-, 21- and 22-year-olds. They’re healthy, ” said Gundy.
“A lot of them can fight it off with their natural body, the antibodies, and the build that they have. There are some people that are asymptomatic. If that’s true, then we sequester them. And people say that’s crazy. No, it’s not crazy because we need to continue and budget and run money through the state of Oklahoma.”
It’s no secret. Gundy’s pockets directly benefit from the ability to get these players back on the field as soon as possible.
If this virus lingers into the start of the college football season and games are canceled, it could negatively impact many institution’s bottom line.
Thus, impacting the revenue of coaches like Gundy.
But let’s say that Gundy’s ideals are not self-serving.
Let’s assume he wants these students to come back to the field so that their impact increases the effectiveness of the trickle-down economic theory and truly helps citizens in Oklahoma for the time being.
Is short-term economic stability worth the lives of loved ones across your state and in the same community that you have made a home?
Is it worth forcing athletes that may have asthma, that may have sickle cell or that may have an immune disorder to compete now and risk their health?
Is it worth seeing your favorite athletes in tears because they were asymptomatic and spread it to an elderly loved one that didn’t have the strength to fight it off?
It shouldn’t be.
And if it is, you have a problem, just like Gundy.
Lives are not worth your paycheck. Lives are not worth your 401K and lives are not worth your comfort.
This is a time of major sacrifice, it’s no time to be worried about things that are so trivial.