Pac 12 athletes on the brink!

MGN

Good to see sports moving again, producing, battling long odds during a pandemic. I covered the 3M Open last week with no fans. I’ve covered several Twins games with no fans. I’ve watched the NBA, WNBA, NHL, MLS, and the NFL players have reported. It’s not supposed to be like this. The positive tests prove it.

We still don’t know how you get it. Just take precautions, wear a mask, social distancing, washing your hands, etc. It should be no surprise to anyone that the Miami Marlins baseball team had 19 positive tests. They play in Florida with over 500,000 positive tests, a record for the United States.

This is because they have a governor who’s reckless and careless with people’s lives. The NBA and WNBA have locked their leagues down privately, no outsiders or family, and so far so good.

MLB has postponed 24 games after 25 players have tested positive with the coronavirus. The NFL has had 72 players test positive; the Vikings have had eight positive tests among players, including Pro Bowler Anthony Barr and the team’s trainer.

The NFL is being extremely careful—no team is physically starting activities until August 17. Like the challenge of living, this is a great sacrifice. Privacy has taken on a whole new definition these days. It’s not personal.

When you have network TV and multi-million-dollar contracts, pro sports can move forward even with the enormous risk. College sports are dependent on student athletes doing what they have always done, generating millions of dollars annually on sweat with their bodies.

It’s worked all these years with 300 Division 1 schools raking in billions, paying only the University presidents, coaches and non-revenue sports like track, swimming, wrestling, baseball, soccer and others.

College football and basketball programs with 75% Black athletes carry the amateur sports market. I have long been at odds with the NCAA and have never gotten an answer to revenue distribution questions. That’s why on August 3 we still don’t know if we will have a college football or basketball fall season.

It’s difficult. The virus is killing 1,000 Americans or more every month. Can the schools protect the safety of these student athletes? Can they be tested daily like the pros? They are not in a bubble; they have to go to class. Who is paying for it? That’s why several university conferences and independent schools have already canceled 2020 fall sports programming.

Students on campus this fall? Coronavirus is spiking virtually everywhere. If the schools have no classes, then you cannot protect student athletes them from this virus. It’s a human rights issue. Who is standing up for the student athletes?

Are all blinded by dreams of going pro? Only 3% of them annually make it, but they all believe they can. Universities generate millions on student athletes’ dreams.

Pac 12 student-athletes are challenging for change right now. They said in writing they will opt-out of fall camp and game participation this fall due to coronavirus and other serious concerns unless the conference guarantees in writing to protect and benefit both scholarship athletes and walk-ons.

This is serious business. Our young student athletes have sacrificed and delivered big time since 1960. When doors opened to Black athletes like Sandy Stevens at Minnesota and other schools nationally, they finally were permitted the opportunity to be student athletes at predominantly White universities.

Remember Jerry Rice and Walter Payton? Both went to Black universities, and they are both Hall of Famers. When Black athletes had no choice, they still produced at Grambling State, Prairie View, Florida A&M and other schools.

Just like the discussion on reparations that gets lost, one day, yes, paying student athletes should be in this social justice reform movement. It has to be much more than seeing just Black Lives Matter on a basketball court in an empty arena in COVID-19-raging Florida. Or a message on an NBA player’s jersey

It is time now to bring everything up to code. It’s time to do what’s right for the majority of student athletes in this country and forget about the universities’ bottom lines. I commend the great courage of the Pac 12 players. An eye for an eye. This is business. 

About Larry Fitzgerald

Larry Fitzgerald is a longstanding contributing columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder. He can be heard weekday mornings on KMOJ Radio 89.9 FM at 8:25 am, on WDGY-AM 740 Monday and Friday at 9:10 am, and at www.Gamedaygold.com. He also commentates on sports 7-8 pm on Almanac (TPT channel 2). Follow him on Twitter at FitzBeatSr. Larry welcomes reader responses to info@larry-fitzgerald.com, or visit www.Larry-Fitzgerald.com.

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