Athletic Blackmail

When the University of Missouri’s football team joined student protesters and threatened not to play a scheduled game against BYU at Arrowhead stadium in Kansas City, school president Tim Wolfe’s resignation was signed, sealed, and delivered before he even had a chance to consider it. The moneymaking power of college athletics was the driver.

Forfeiting that game would have cost the university the million dollars it already guaranteed BYU for agreeing to play. Added to that would be millions lost from renting Arrowhead stadium and all the subsequent revenue from tickets, concessions, parking, and TV broadcasting. When you compare that with the university president’s salary of approximately $459k, forcing Wolfe’s resignation seems like a sound economic decision, but it will have consequences.

The protesters will treat this as a victory from “speaking truth to power”, but it was blackmail by the football team that did the talking and now, a dangerous precedent has been set. Would the university have caved if the football team threatened to forfeit a game unless Republican speakers were banned from the campus? What if the demand was to provide refuge and scholarships to illegal immigrants? How about a demand to replace every white administrator with an African-American or fire teachers who do not toe the PC line?

Some will argue that this is different because it was about the serious issue of racism but there really is such a thing as a “slippery slope”, and the unleashed economic power of a football team can become very slippery, indeed. Wolfe’s resignation will not solve any racial problems the university may be experiencing and it was forced before allegations, circumstances, or culpability could be fully determined. It was, simply, knee-jerk blackmail – and it worked all too well.

Students and student athletes taking control of a university does not bode well. Holding a school hostage for any reason is just another form of the anarchy we see rising in the streets. Allowing it could prove to be much more costly in the long run than the loss of a football game. We can only hope this is an isolated incident but power corrupts and college athletes across the country are now fully aware of the power they have. Call it “higher learning”, cross your fingers, and hope for the best.

 

David J. Hentosh

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