Student-athlete privilege: The right to be seen and not heard

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Nothing good ever comes from reading the comment section.
Best case scenario, you kill an hour arguing with a stranger about a topic that neither of you is probably qualified to discuss. Worst case, you see an opinion that you can’t believe someone can really have and it eats at you all day, or for the next couple.
That is what happened to me this weekend when I clicked on a Twitter post made by Missouri Tiger football coach Gary Pinkel. The post was published on November 8. The day before, it was reported that the African-American players on Pinkel’s team were prepared to sit out of the next game in protest of the actions or inaction of their school president.
The post read: “The Mizzou Family stands as one. We are united. We are behind our players. #ConcernedStudent1950 GP.” It was accompanied with a picture showing what appears to be the entire Missouri football team with their arms locked.
Now, I am not a Mizzou fan, but to execute a move like that takes some guts and you really have to believe in what you are doing.
But that damn comment section.
I clicked hoping to see support for Pinkel and the players. Instead, I saw comments like, “Pull their scholarships, back the van up to the athletic dorm, pack their stuff and get lost. #Privlegedweenies.”
How someone can think that way is beyond me. If the situation was dire enough in some people’s eyes to arrange a hunger strike, then there is certainly an issue that at least deserves to be looked at.
Why can’t the most influential students on campus show their opinion?
These students put their future on the line for a cause they believed in, many of these players have professional aspirations. Those dreams depend on them playing football and displaying their skill. If they found this cause worthwhile enough to put a future seven-figure payday on the line, then I’d say they feel pretty strongly about it.
And guess what? It wasn’t until the team got involved that this issue blew up on the national scene. A hunger strike didn’t get results, but threaten how someone spends their Saturday afternoon and people take notice.
I applaud the Tigers for their guts, and I applaud Gary Pinkel for standing up to his boss in that tweet and risking his seven-figure salary for what he deemed to be right.
A student-athlete has as much right to an opinion as anyone else. Any fan that feels an athlete should just play, and be seen and not heard, is not giving the modern-day collegiate athlete the credit they deserve and is trying to rob them of one of their basic rights as both scholars of a university and citizens.