#11: Don't Hate The Player, Hate The Game

The commodification of Black athletes always has been about the Benjamins and racism


Welcome to the eleventh issue of Blaxplaining, a weekly newsletter examining the nuances of Black contemporary life and current affairs. If you like this newsletter, please follow @blaxplaining on Twitter, and share it with everybody and their momma, and then some.

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Ah, Fall — my favorite season of the year, and the time for college football, crisp weather, and Halloween. In any other year, we’ll be almost a month into the college football season, which is a sacred time for me. See, I’m a University of Georgia Alumna. I’ve been cheering on the Dawgs for years, despite them breaking my heart every season. But this year, like every year, is different. This season would have been 40 years since the last national championship, and this would have been the season we could have finally won another championship. But this isn’t a normal football season. Hell, there should be no college football season at all. But here we are. 

While the United States continues to fight for its place as the tenth circle of hell, sports have tried to be a form of mind-numbing entertainment. While the professional sports bubbles kind of make sense, having college football or any school sports is just incredibly stupid. It’s no secret that COVID cases are rising on college campuses, but what’s even more unnerving is the blatant preference of profit over health and common sense, especially when it comes to playing an extremely high-contact sport. I get it, the players want to play and schools receive over millions of dollars from their programs, but as COVID continues to spread and it’s impossible to separate athletes from their peers, it’s just highly irresponsible. These programs say that they are taking the utmost precautions, but I was watching the University of Central Florida/Georgia Tech and Louisville/Miami games last night, and in both instances, I saw both players and fans covering their mouth and noses about 25% of the time. No bueno.

Moreover, despite COVID dominating the college football conversations, this year’s racial reckoning presents another reason why these boys should not be playing. These mostly Black players are powerless and not compensated despite their programs bringing in millions of dollars. According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, the revenue is not even benefitting the Black players but mostly going to the paychecks of coaches and administrators, and to finance non-revenue sports played by affluent white athletes. Also, as more players speak out about racial injustices, there have been just as many calls for players to stop bringing politics into sports, but as we saw in the instances of the Kansas fans booing, it was never about the protest or the politics. It was about the fans loving the players and the entertainment they provide, but hating when those Black players are being vocal about issues affecting them. The only solution I offer is for Black college athletes to take their talent to someplace where they are valued as human beings instead of commodities (Hello HBCUs).

Long story short, are football players playing on campuses that are overwhelmed by COVID cases? Yes. Are players getting paid for the risk they are taking? No. Are most players young, Black, and overwhelmingly affected by the virus? Yes. But despite all of the obvious reasons, the argument still being made is that college football must go on. 

Anyways, Go Dawgs.

Recommended Reads:

College Football Players Are Unpaid Stars On the Field And Have No Power Off It By Bomani Jones

  • In this article featured in Vanity Fair’s The Great Fire Issue, Bomani Jones brings attention to the collegiate athlete system that prioritizes institutional revenue but overwhelmingly lacks rights for collegiate athletes. As college sports begin again, student-athletes, specifically Black players, lack the power to protect and advocate for themselves and their humanity in the time of COVID and racial injustice. Unfortunately, money and white supremacy are what makes the world go around, and it’s hard to separate college football from that. Despite Black players bringing in revenue, their overwhelmingly white institutions are treating them as cash cows that can be easily replaced by the next recruiting class. Players may not have any financial power or say so in whether or not the program will play this fall, but speaking truth to power can be just as revolutionary. Pair with Kurt Streeter’s A College Football Conference Can Choose Players Over Profits for a Change.

It’s Time for Black Athletes to Leave White Colleges by Jemele Hill 

  • I’ve often wondered why more talented football players choose to go to predominately white colleges rather than HBCUs, or historically Black colleges and universities. Jemele Hill proposes the question of what if a group of talented athletes made the choice to attend HBCUs? The NCAA generates billions as Black athletes attract money and notoriety to their white colleges, but Black people are not in positions of power at these institutions and do not benefit from the profits being made. If Black athletes choose to attend HBCUs, it would bring revenue and attention to the struggling Black colleges, that have valued Black students since their founding. It would ultimately disrupt the revenue cycle that has been built upon the backs of uncompensated Black athletes. 

I’m Still Saying Her Name by Freeman A. Hrabowski III

  • This year marks the 57th anniversary of the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama. In this article by Freeman A. Hrabowski, a friend of one of the victims, Cynthia Wesley, Hrabowski reflects on the legacy of the four little girls and the progress of the Civil Rights movement that has happened since then. It’s astonishing that the state of Alabama has never offered Sarah Collins Rudolph, the sole survivor of the bombing, any payment or support, let alone their condolences for the bombing. 

Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Dying Wish: Dissent! By Elie Mystal

  • Supreme Court Justice and women’s rights champion Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away this Friday at the age of 87. Shortly after her death, talks about filling her seat were front and center. On her deathbed, she dictated a message: “My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed.” The crypt keeper himself, Mitch McConnell, completely disregarded her last words and pledged that Trump’s nominee will get a vote on the Senate floor, despite him doing the complete opposite with Merrick Garland four years ago. The only thing we can do to honor her legacy is to vote and fight like hell. R.I.P R.B.G. 

Taking a break next week to watch some football and do some damn work for this election. Join me in writing letters to undecided voters via Vote Forward and Swing Left and/or match my $25 donation to Get Mitch or Die Trying

That’s all for this week. If you like this issue, please forward it to your friends (or enemies if you like being petty), and leave a heart. And if you’re not a subscriber, go ahead and subscribe. Remember to wear your mask, partake in some self-care, and make sure you’re prepared to vote. Thanks for reading!