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Today in the Noble Ideals of Amateurism


Good piece by Will Leitch on Dabo “MAGA” Swinney’s crusade to keep as much of the money generated by the labor of his players while constraining their freedom as much as possible:

Which is why it was so shocking last week when Dabo Swinney, head coach of defending college football champion Clemson, announced that Kelly Bryant — who started four games for the Tigers last year, including a key 28-26 road victory over Texas A&M in which he threw for a touchdown and ran for another — would not be receiving a championship ring. The reason: After losing the starting job to freshman phenom Trevor Lawrence, Bryant — who had graduated from college and therefore could sit out the rest of the season and have one more year of eligibility in 2019 for another team — left the team and transferred to Missouri.


When Swinney won the national championship game in January, he was awarded more than $2 million in bonuses for the 2019 season in addition to the $6.8 million salary he’d already earned — a salary that jumped considerably when he signed a ten-year, $92 million contract after the season. That is a fortune he has made on the backs of his unpaid players. To be an FBS college football coach is to reap the harvest of an unjust system, but Swinney has gone beyond merely being complicit in this system. Instead, he has chosen to forcefully advocate for it. He has said he will quit college football entirely if players get paid, saying that, “as far as paying players, professionalizing college athletics, that’s where you lose me. I’ll go do something else, because there’s enough entitlement in this world as it is.” (He brazenly reiterated this stance after signing that new contract.) He has fought against players receiving stipends in addition to their scholarships. When Northwestern football players attempted to unionize a few years ago, he was one of the loudest voices in opposition.

Swinney’s stances against player autonomy, in both college and professional sports, are legendary. He criticized Colin Kaepernick’s protest, saying that “it’s not good to use the team as a platform” and that “two wrongs don’t make a right” while citing Martin Luther King Jr., something he later had to apologize for. He claimed players don’t pretend they have concussions to stay on the field and that football is “safer than it has ever been.” (Both statements are false.) He once kicked a player off his team — and thus out of college — for “having a bad attitude.” He doesn’t tolerate cursing at his practices. Oh, and remember the Clemson football team’s visit to the White House during the government shutdown, when President Trump gave out all that fast food? The Root reported that while most of Clemson’s black players did not attend, the ones who did go did so because they feared Swinney would punish them otherwise. (Swinney denied this, as did several players.)

Swinney’s unsavoriness goes beyond seeking to maintain his own power and profits. He has said America doesn’t have a “race problem, it has a sin problem.” In 2016, he refused to investigate an allegation that Clemson players had used racial slurs against South Carolina players, saying he could forgive college students for making mistakes but not media for reporting on them. (He actually said that the reporters who published the allegations should have been fired.) He has said that activists should “move to another country.” He even once called himself “Osama bin Dabo,” which is sort of offensive but mostly just weird.

OK, but if the players were paid, this would completely destroy the competitive balance of the sport — you might get a situation where the same teams appear in the playoffs year after year.

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