Football Fumbles: Inside Grambling’s Players’ Revolt

Coach Eddie Robinson, the all-time leader in wins in Division I college football, led Grambling State University to prominence. hoto credit: Clotee Pridgen Allochuku via photopin cc
Coach Eddie Robinson, the all-time leader in wins in Division I college football, led Grambling State University to prominence.    hoto credit: Clotee Pridgen Allochuku via photopin cc
Coach Eddie Robinson, the all-time leader in wins in Division I college football, led Grambling State University to prominence. Photo credit: Clotee Pridgen Allochuku via photopin cc

What has happened at Grambling State University should be an abomination to college athletics. But it was bound to happen sooner or later. It’s too bad it is happening now.

If you’re not up to speed about what is going on at one of the most storied historically black colleges in this country, the current state of affairs at the university is probably something that won’t help in the school’s recruiting pitch for student-athletes.

The football players at Grambling took a stance against the school they represent on the football field, calling out the school for its ill-treatment of the players. Then taking a bold page straight out  from the 1960s black college student-athletes’ playbook, these modern day players boycotted practices and didn’t bother to show up to hop on the team bus that would take them to play Jackson State.

The game was subsequently canceled. Grambling players stood up for what they believed in and didn’t waver from it, forcing the school in a state of public panic and humiliation and handed college athletes as a whole, a black-eye. Good for them.

College athletes these days are remembering their humanity and rights as individuals are not tied to the scholarships offered by the school they attend.

If you look around and see what is happening all across the college athletics landscape, more and more student-athletes are becoming emboldened to exercise their basic rights as people to make changes to the filthy business of college sports.

Look at what is happening with all the legal victories piled up by former and some current collegiate players who were not afraid to challenge the NCAA and EA Sports for making money off of their likeness.

According to varied published reports, hundreds of thousands of student-athletes in football and basketball stand to gain some part of the $40 million settlement that EA Sports and Collegiate Licensing Company will shell out to them.

This is but a first step, albeit a huge leap, in the way college student-athletes are to be dealt with in the future. As a result of this settlement, EA Sports will not produce its popular NCAA Football video game in 2014 as a result of a lawsuit led by former UCLA basketball star Ed O’ Bannon and other former and current athletes, accusing the two companies and the NCAA of violating antitrust laws.

Outside of that issue, a new movement championing the rights of the student-athlete at the collegiate level has made its way to the mainstream. Players at prominent football programs such as Georgia Tech, North Carolina and Northwestern have shown their support for All Players United (APU), a campaign that promotes college athletics reform.

Now you have the football players at Grambling exercising their rights to free speech by telling the athletic department at the school and the administration to go take a hike until they are treated as human beings. I say bravo for these young men for having the guts to stand up for themselves and not being afraid of the consequences that may lay in front of them.

It takes some real boldness to pull off what these men just did. But it isn’t the first time these kinds of things have happened. There were plenty of student-athlete rebellions in college athletics during the 60s when segregation was a major problem in this country.

When we think about athletes revolting against the system, many people come up with the obvious imagery of U.S. track stars John Carlos and Tommie Smith protesting the inhumane treatment of African Americans and other oppressed people with their raised fists in black gloves on the victory stand at the 1968 Olympics.

But there were a whole of noise of protest being made across the country from other student-athletes besides Carlos and Smith, who were track stars at San Jose State. The University of Texas at El Paso, Princeton, Michigan State, San Francisco State and the University of California at Berkeley, were just some of the schools broadsided with unrest regarding their black student-athletes.

So what is going on at Grambling now is nothing new. But forcing the cancellation of a big-time athletic event like a football game registers as a 10 on the Richter scale. It also may give other student-athletes the encouragement to stand up and force the greedy and control-driven adults that run college athletics to hear their voices.

Dennis J. Freeman
About Dennis J. Freeman 1151 Articles

Dennis covers the NFL (Chargers), NBA (Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers), Major League Baseball (Los Angeles Dodgers) and NCAA sports (USC, UCLA, Long Beach State). Dennis has also covered and written on topics such as civil rights, politics and social justice. Dennis is a proud alum of Howard University.