A Case for Managing NCAA Protests
Updated: Apr 15
Protests are bad for the college sports business. It may sound overly callous, but it’s true. You have doubts about that view? Take a few minutes to read about the Power Five universities as they stretch through verbal gymnastics to justify college football season. And yes, these are the same university administrations continuing to discourage society’s return to full-time public activities. The inconsistency comes off as nothing short of greed at the expense of players and coaches.
Protests will generally receive a strong level of sympathy when they’re believed to be righteous in nature. Unfortunately, history shows a majority sympathy will often be given back by individuals acting selfishly. We are politically a 50/50 country and legitimacy of any problem, in short time, will eventually be dismissed because it's simply a view from the other side.
On the deep horizon is a potentially disastrous economic issue for college football. If one form of protest is permitted, what follows? And if one protest topic is approved, while another is disapproved, does that leave a university in the position of becoming political activists? Consider your team taking the field with players individually protesting opposite sides of personal causes through body paint, uniform changes, hand gestures or poses:
- BLM, MAGA or Antifa logos
- Pro / Anti Military Protests
- Pro / Anti Police Protests
- Pro / Anti NRA Protests
- Pro / Anti Union Protests
- Pro / Anti Healthcare Program Protests
- Pro / Anti Immigration
- Pro / Anti LGBTQ Protests
- Pro / Anti Abortion Protests
- Pro / Anti Israel Protests
- Pro / Anti Oil Protests
- Pro / Anti Tax Protests
And then inevitable protest fatigue follows for fans and sponsors. What about each locker room and how these divisive issues will limit teams from becoming cohesive units? The logical next steps are aligning teams with a university's commitment to a topic of protest. To synchronize the locker room and university culture there would be change in the recruiting process - and it would begin to take place organically. This type of move may be difficult to identify in the beginning stages and outwardly described as being "conspiracies". Over time, guided by a university’s viewpoint preferences, some schools would eventually begin fielding ideologically tinted teams for the sake of team cohesion and campus designed culture. It's a natural flow of development with team chemistry being the foundation of successfully performing on-the-field teams.
Turn down the volume, because there is a topic players seem to shy away from mentioning with the protest movements. How often have coaching staffs and/or university officials publicly pressed for investigations into the degenerative brain disease endemic among football players? It would appear, through different studies, the NCAA-FCS, and universities are knowingly placing players at risk by ignoring long-term health concerns similar to the tobacco industry ignoring evidence of links between smoking and cancer. The dangers related to these health protests are twofold: A negative economic impact across the landscape and a legitimacy of those protests scaring away fans and advertisers.
Very soon we will begin learning who the real leaders are within NCAA-FCS sports and university administrations. Setting specific standards and guidelines to define protest standards will be critical to long term success as individuals and universities.