They learned the hard way that even groundbreaking civil rights laws are not self-executing.
Kelly Belanger. Invisible Seasons
Considering that an earthquake of legislation was enacted on June 23, 1972, you wouldn’t know it by looking at the newspaper archives. Title IX isn’t mentioned in the NY Times story on June 24, which references Nixon signing the “School Aid Bill.” The president’s major gripe about the bill is the lack of restriction on school busing. A tiny note towards the bottom mentions that colleges would lose funding if they discriminated against women in admission policies.
On that day, Kissinger was in talks with “Peking.” The Hurricane Agnes flood was devastating Pennsylvania. The president held a press conference on Domestic Matters, whose first question was about what the administration knew about the break-in at the Democratic Headquarters the previous week. Nixon said, “I know nothing.”
Looking back now, you’d think there was a switch flipped somehow (by Nixon) and voila! Megan Rapinoe and the WNBA burst like fireworks on to the scene. But that’s misleading. Title IX was a slow burn. People at the time didn’t see the fire kindled and, when they did, tried various endeavors to stamp it out. Those pushing for it were political animals, jockeying for position. No one thought about women playing sports. Some of the best ideas come as unintended consequences.
I am 99% certain that this story won’t surprise any of you. I am 99.5% sure that college football has too many players. And I am 100% disappointed in the stupidity of the behavior of players for my alma mater, which has had to cancel its upcoming game against USC because of a COVID outbreak.
The back-and-forth finger-pointing between the Cal sports program and local health officials started before the previous week’s game, when 24 players couldn’t travel to Arizona due to “COVID protocols.” Players, alumni, and sports fans weren’t bashful in criticizing the City of Berkeley Health Services and the university for being overly cautious. However, the dam broke this week, when so many players and staff tested positive that the team had to cancel their next upcoming game. As it turns out, the facts matter, especially when the whole picture is revealed. And, for most of you, who I suspect don’t care about Cal or college football, there are also lessons to be learned.
The Sequence of Events
A few days before the Cal-Arizona football last Saturday, the team announced that 24 players were required to stay home due to COVID protocols. This included starting players, such as quarterback Chase Garber. News reports later clarified that they weren’t staying home just because of exposure to someone with COVID but because they had tested positive themselves.
Sports Fan, the Word of the Day is avarice. That seems to cover it well at least for fans, network executives, owners, and players. Some owners and some players anyway, as how professional sports purveyors are planning to address opening of their sport in our Covid-soaked world varies dramatically by sport. If, like me, you are desperately greedy to watch some games besides a 13-2 baseball donnybrook from 2015 or the Doritos Cornhole Championships, then let me give you a rundown of plans for some of the national sports leagues. How those leagues differ in approach reveals a lot about their industry.
Let’s also agree that we don’t want anyone playing who might risk getting Covid-19. I’m not in the camp that thinks we can achieve herd immunity by letting the disease burns its way through or that only weenies wear masks. Any of these players and leagues could decide as they move forward–as they did on March 12th–that it’s too dangerous to risk the health of players, coaches, and surrounding support workers. We don’t yet know if any sport is safe enough. What is true is that this disease won’t discriminate between a linebacker and a knuckleball set-up pitcher.