Monday, April 7, 2014

Players Needs or unNecessary Roughness?


Northwestern University and the NCAA must prove that football players are NOT “employees” as per the latest ruling by the National Labor Relations Board in Chicago.

 Regional director Peter S. Ohr ruled that players do get “a substantial economic benefit for playing football” including scholarships, room and board, books, fees, stipends, etc. that can reach a sum total of as much as $76,000 in one year for a single player. This, Ohr says, qualifies the players as employees who can vote in union elections and Northwestern failed to prove otherwise.

 When I first heard this story I thought, Oh nooo! What the heck are these players doing!? Then I thought again. This football mama’s theory is not pretty, but it is largely the reason this could, and I say could with great caution, be necessary roughness on behalf of the players.

 The movie, The Blind Side hit many folks straight through the heart. Not necessarily due to the theme—wealthy family picks up homeless kid, but because of the deplorable living conditions, the child suffered through. It’s a crisis throughout this country with thousands of children in heart wrenching circumstances, and that was just one child’s story. Multiply it by infinity.

 Survival skills that are almost forced on high-risk youth who end up following the same path as generations before them include; either sell drugs, become a pimp/prostitute, or turn to sports. For some kids the only way out of a life of jeopardy is sports. Otherwise, more than likely, they will continue on the path and vanish into oblivion on the streets.

 Many do their best to escape this living style, yet the strongholds are nearly insurmountable. They see a sports future as climbing out. By signing a letter of intent to play college ball—provided they are blessed with enough talent to do so, is for some kids, their only hope of securing mama’s future. Viewing themselves playing on Saturday’s opens the Golden Gate pathway to the NFL. Sadly, many have no real intentions of graduating with a college degree.

 The peril these kids are in is not hearsay—it’s personal testimony. I’m married to someone who’s spent a lifetime advocating on behalf of children in our foster care systems.

 I saw it for myself when I moved my own guys onto college campuses. Many players across the country report to begin their collegiate career as a football player, without so much as a tooth brush. It is honestly, one of the saddest occurrences I’ve ever witnessed in my life.

 While moving each one of my guys into two different college dorms, I saw several players move in with nothing. No mama present—trucking up flights of stairs arms caring a laundry basket full of clothes, scrubbing commodes, making up beds, securing snacks, wishing them well with last minute prayers and hugs. No, they arrive alone and empty-handed.  

 It takes sheets to cover mattresses, towels and soap, laundry detergent, razor, shaving cream, deodorant, all items not provided by the University of Red Roof. These kids are seriously at the mercy of a few folks who may or may not pay attention to these needs—their new coaches. I saw it time and time again and it still haunts me even today, that I didn’t do more to help.

 I did what we could for those whose living quarters were close to my guys, either pod roommates, roommates or those that played on the OL. I always tried to make sure, when I bought groceries that I purchased a little extra. Things like snacks, juices, fruit, sundries and anything else that I got for one of my own, I tried to get enough for the buddies as well. However, we had a limited income, a budget that soon sunk like a stone. Just traveling to see these games nearly buried us in debt. Somehow, God always provided.

 Even so, I couldn’t bear the thought of turning away any fella that I knew had it a little rougher than my own two. After home games, you would find us taking kids out for dinner or for breakfast the next day, whomever my guys showed up with, we always tried to include them, too.

 It is no wonder that this has now become an issue with college players, extra money that is. Perhaps by forming a “union” is the only way for the players to get a little side cash. It takes guts to stand up to business as usual, much less the NCAA. Then again, it could open up a whole new can of worms with regulating that cash. If you grow up not knowing how to save or spend money wisely, than who’s to say this will solve a dad-burn thing.

 Yes, I know the NCAA has axed any and all monetary fund’s going straight to individual players. And, when money is involved it can really get messy really easily. Betting sharks buying outcomes on games, booster giving certain players cash or, even buying cars as once practiced, any privileged perks for players these days have been gutted straight-out by the NCAA. Rightly so, in the past it has all been done underhanded and under no regulation or fairness for all players. 

 I always wished there was a way to set-up some sort of program to help these kids, I wanted to do something. I’ve heard it said—if you see a need, fill it. Don’t wait on someone else to do something YOU do something! Even trying to live by that premise, I sadly, have fallen way short putting my heart into action.

 Maybe it will be the glory of the Northwestern Wildcats to put this need into action and set the stage for other players to follow. Maybe it’s genius. Maybe by sounding the alarm to boosters, football fans and us parents of college players, either past or present, who have seen this need and done nothing, we can finally come together and do something!   







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