The University of Mississippi should decline to put the health and lives of its student football athletes at risk by withdrawing the team from South Eastern Conference (SEC) football this season. Football players should not be pressured to put their health and lives at risk playing football during a global pandemic so that the university can make large sums off their unpaid labor. If the university is not ready to put students back into crowded classrooms, why is it ready to put football student athletes back into daily close interactions with other players and coaches, full-contact athletic interactions and crowded travel buses? They are students, just like all the others and should receive the same level of concern and care.
Some may argue that the players have been granted extra eligibility and can sit out the season if they wish, but the fact is that there is immense pressure on the student athletes to play. They should not have to make that choice. The university should make the responsible and human choice and withdraw the team from the SEC slate, accepting the financial losses. If the university does not withdraw from the SEC slate this season, it should be held responsible for any consequences to the athletes’ health.
Cecille Labuda is an associate professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Mississippi.