Friday, October 25, 2013

The Kids Are All Right

It's been a long time since Grambling football was in the news. Sure, Coach Eddie Robinson was a legend, and they made a splash when they hired former Washington QB Doug Williams as coach, but historically black colleges don't traditionally show up on ESPN's College Gameday.


But now Grambling's back in the news, because its players refused to play. Didn't show up for a bus ride to Jackson State, which meant the game got cancelled, which meant the school owed their league a $20K penalty. Jackson State's talking about suing, too, talking about lost revenues for the town. Shame on those kids for throwing a tantrum over the firing of their coach, right?

Except, of course, there's more to the story. Check the letter team members sent to school administration explaining their discontents. Damaged facilities. 17 hour bus rides to games. Mold and mildew all over their facilities. Dirty gear that caused staph infections. All backed up with pictures and evidence.

Now, Grambling is a public university, and it's getting crunched by budget issues. It's a dead certainty that there are other places on that campus where money and upkeep is desperately needed. At the same time, sending kids out there into the bone-crunching cauldron of football without seeing to their basic health needs is unconscionable.

Meanwhile, in Atlanta, a cleanup crew in hazmat suits hosed down the visiting locker room after last week's games. Why? Tampa Bay's been suffering an outbreak of MRSA, also known as "flesh eating bacteria". Falcons management was just playing it safe.

But you think about that. You think about the pros - the guys who are actually getting paid millions of dollars to do this. You think about how much teams spend to protect their investment in players. And you realize that even then, they can't keep things 100% clean.

Then you think about kids being sent out there to make money for their school in moldy pads and staph-ridden uniforms. The players who don't have hazmat teams cleaning up after them. And you think, yeah, they were right not to play after all.



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