Lest Trump’s message be lost, he tweeted again 51 minutes later: “Play College Football!”
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany echoed that message. “These college athletes work their whole lives for this moment,” she told reporters, “and he would like to see them have a chance to live out their dreams.”
Trump is widely popular in many states where college football is a cultural touchstone, including the Deep South and parts of the Midwest, and he has called for the on-time and in-person reopening of schools throughout the pandemic. The president on Monday joined other congressmen in supporting players’ calls to play on, though they did not initially address the players’ other message, in support of forming a union.
Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) sent a letter to Big Ten Conference officials urging them not to call off the season. “Life is about trade-offs,” he wrote in the letter (via Sports Illustrated’s Ross Dellenger). “There are no guarantees that college football will be completely safe — that’s absolutely true. It’s always true. But the structure and discipline of football programs is very likely safer than what the lived experience of 18-to-22-year-olds will be if there isn’t a season.”
Sasse pointed out that he is a former college president at what is now Midland University and added, “Canceling the fall season would mean closing down socially-distanced, structured programs for these athletes. Young men will be pushed away from universities that are uniquely positioned to provide them with testing and health care.”
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), a former college wrestling champion and assistant wrestling coach at Ohio State, tweeted simply, “America needs college football.”
Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.) tweeted, “College universities and athletic conferences need to put politics aside and come together to find a way to safely play college football this season.”
Representatives of the Power Five conferences will determine the fate of the season, with some of the sport’s biggest stars insisting football can be played safely.
“People are at just as much, if not more risk, if we don’t play,” Clemson’s star quarterback, Trevor Lawrence, wrote on Twitter. “Players will all be sent home to their own communities where social distancing is highly unlikely and medical care and expenses will be placed on the families if they were to contract covid-19.
“Not to mention the players coming from situations that are not good for them/their future and having to go back to that. Football is a safe haven for so many people. We are more likely to get the virus in everyday life than playing football.”
Lawrence, along with Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields, Washington State’s Dallas Hobbs, Clemson’s Darien Rencher, Alabama’s Najee Harris, Oklahoma State’s Chuba Hubbard, Stanford’s Dylan Boles, Utah’s Nick Ford, Michigan’s Hunter Reynolds, and Oregon’s Penei Sewell, Johnny Johnson III, Jevon Holland and Kayvon Thibodeaux, held a video conference call to agree on a message that also included “#WeAreUnited.”
“The beautiful thing is now we’re all on the same page,” Boles told ESPN. “We made history tonight.”
SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey expressed uncertainty Monday afternoon about whether his powerhouse conference could play football.
“Best advice I’ve received since covid-19: ‘Be patient. Take time when making decisions.’ This is all new & you’ll gain better information each day. [The SEC] has been deliberate at each step since March … slowed return to practice … delayed 1st game to respect start of fall semester … Developed testing protocols … We know concerns remain,” he tweeted. “We have never had a FB season in a covid-19 environment. Can we play? I don’t know. We haven’t stopped trying. We support, educate and care for student-athletes every day, and will continue to do so … every day.”
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