The members of the UNC football team have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to strike a blow for the rights of college athletes and their teammates. Monday’s announcement that 13 players on the team would be suspended for up to four games for violation of NCAA rules cries out for the players to circle the wagons. I urge them to emulate the football players at the University of Missouri who in 2015 announced a boycott of games until the school president resigned over racial tensions on campus. Guess what? The school cracked faster than an egg shell and the president was gone within the week.
So, what precipitated the latest Tar Heel run-in with the authoritarians at NCAA headquarters? Oh horrors! The guilty players admitted to selling shoes that they’d been given. What a heinous crime, particularly considering the entire sum of money gained by the players from “the great shoe sale” probably doesn’t equal the value of the collection of Gucci loafers sported by NCAA President Mark Emmert or even Coach Larry Fedora’s collection of cowboy boots. But “dad gum,” rules are rules and these young men need to be punished — or so says the NCAA and its minion UNC.
That’s why the team needs to go gather in front of the Charlie “Choo Choo” Justice statue at Kenan Stadium (Charlie got a few extra benefits in his day) and simply tell the chancellor and UNC’s athletic director Bubba Cunningham, that “we all play – or we all stay – home that is.” Do that and you’ll see the biggest meltdown on the Chapel Hill campus since Butch Davis got fired. And I promise you the entire nation will be watching. Send the coaches, trainers, VIPs and cheerleaders on that chartered plane to California to start the season. But if there aren’t any football players on that plane, there’s going to be hell to pay.
This is a serious proposition and I can promise you the coaching staff and administration will lean on these kids unmercifully to keep them from even considering boycotting any games. But if those young men will show the courage, leadership, loyalty and toughness that we know they have, then they can right this wrong and strike a vital blow for the rights of all the young men and women exploited by the billion-dollar industry of college sports. Apparently, they can play for the greater financial benefit of everybody else but they sure as hell can’t sell any shoes.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Charlotte Observer