Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise
Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise

Republicans Are Using Big Ten Athletes as Pawns in a Sick Game

Republicans are arguing that not playing football will harm local institutions and the players themselves. OSU’s Justin Fields is leading the charge to reinstate play in the Big Ten.
Republicans are arguing that not playing football will harm local institutions and the players themselves. OSU’s Justin Fields is leading the charge to reinstate play in the Big Ten.
Image: Getty

Legislators in battleground states are once again pushing for the Big Ten to resume college football this fall.

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Republican legislators, that is.

Ten GOP lawmakers from various swing states — and not one Democrat — signed a letter sent to Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren and school leaders, asking them to reverse course on their decision last month to suspend play.

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Big Ten presidents and chancellors voted 11-3 in August to postpone the season. Since then, the conference has been sued by student-athletes, has seen arguably its best player, Justin Fields, become the face of a push to reinstate play, and the president of the United States has pressured the league to return.

Meanwhile, the virus has proven that it can cause chronic side effects in people of all ages, and college students have shown that social distancing and wearing masks are not a top priority.

The Republicans’ open letter argues that in cancelling the season, the Big Ten would hurt local institutions and even harm the players themselves.

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These athletes are losing a vital part of student life and are becoming less marketable to future employers with each passing week. Additionally, our local universities stand to lose hundreds of millions of dollars that support vital student scholarships,” it read.

Less marketable?

The authors admit these athletes are important to local and national economies, and they clearly understand the business that comes with major college sports, but as a group, how vocal have these legislators been about allowing players to be rightfully paid?

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A study has shown that student-athletes, if compensated fairly, would be earning up to seven figures over their careers at these universities.

It’s flagrantly hypocritical to claim interest in a player’s financial well-being without also advocating for them to earn compensation for their work.

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But the hypocrisy is not surprising, cause this move to get the Big Ten back on the field is not really about the athletes. It’s all about political power.

The goal isn’t really to give these students a better life. It’s for these state lawmakers to boost their own political profiles while drumming up crucial votes for Trump and other Republicans come November.

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The strategy is clear. Cast aside the best interests of student-athletes. Roll the dice on their health in a cynical ploy. It’s an approach the president himself has tried using to his advantage.

“The Big Ten should reverse course as soon as possible and do everything possible to help their students restart extracurricular activities safely,” said the letter’s author, Lee Chatfield, the speaker of Michigan’s state House.

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It seems wild to me that Chatfield could truly believe right now that football, or any other close-range extracurricular activity, would be in the best interest of anyone in these college towns.

The letter was signed by GOP state officials in Michigan, Iowa, Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

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Never get it twisted — while there might not be football in the Big Ten this fall, there are still games being played. This is a political play from these lawmakers to boost Republican turnout in vital swing states this November.

It’s never been about the health of these students, their way of life, or their well-being.

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It’s all about politics.

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