Don't cancel college football — America needs it
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Though North Carolina has been my home for more than three decades, I was raised in the panhandle of Florida by two parents born and raised in Alabama. For many who grew up or were born in the Yellowhammer State, teaching your kids to say “Roll Tide” at an early age is very important in their early childhood development.

That may be a slight exaggeration – not really – the point is that college football is not simply just a game we watch on Saturday afternoons. It stands as the lifeblood of our communities. It brings people together from all backgrounds, denominations and political affiliations. Watching the Crimson Tide run into Bryant-Denny Stadium on a Saturday afternoon brings joy and happiness to diehard fans – unless you sadly cheer for their rivals who range from striped felines to hideous dawgs.

Some would even put an Alabama National Championship on their list of most cherished moments – on par with their wedding or the birth of their first child. While these instances are obviously few and far between, there is no doubt college football can reach a level of obsession where few other things compare. Now, multiply this by the other 129 Division I college football teams who suit up each season and it’s clear America has a long-term, deeply-invested relationship with the game of football.

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That’s why the growing threat of cancelling this year’s college football season would be devastating to the morale of our nation, much of which is already distraught from the effects of coronavirus, social unrest and division.

Back in the spring, the sudden and abrupt cancellation of the NCAA Tournament, the Masters, and other sporting events severely impacted the spirit of millions across our country, just as businesses began to shutter and we holed up inside our homes for quarantine. Americans lost their jobs and desperately worried about next month’s rent, their next meal, and their family’s future. The joy of watching their favorite team also escaped from their minds, making way for true hardship to fill the void.

I’m now increasingly worried about the enormous impact a potential cancellation of the fall college football season may have on our families, youth, and neighbors – like a second wave of despair hitting straight to the core of one of our nation’s strongest uniting forces.

As many are still without jobs and fighting to stay afloat, the recent spike in unemployment could also lead to another dreadful outcome: an increased feeling of depression. As the outward toll continues, so does the inward with more time spent alone, along with continued financial and health wellness stresses.

These strains would also be felt by the athletic teams’ hometowns. Many restaurants and hotels located in bustling college towns thrive off of these Saturday experiences, with some having more than 20 percent of their current revenue coming from student activity and events such as football games. Power Five conference schools, including Alabama, also have at least $4.1 billion in fiscal-year revenue tied to their college football programs, meaning the cancellation of the season would surely be a devastating blow across the board.

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Of course, proper protocols and safety provisions must be implemented to ensure athletes and the general public are protected from harm. This could include instituting a “no fans” rule similar to the NBA, or other efforts such as limited seating arrangements and temperature checks.

Many college football athletes agree that starting the season would be beneficial for this very reason, as the likelihood of additional protection and proper precautions in their daily lives would increase.

Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence has been a vocal supporter of this approach. With these college programs serving as “safe havens,” they would better protect athletes’ health and wellbeing than if they sat out the year and returned to their communities, where social distancing and other protocols have become suspect. He’s got a strong point.

Whatever the means, we should be doing everything in our power to make this season a reality -- for our student athletes, our families, and ourselves. In Congress, we have worked to provide trillions of dollars in resources to get America back to work safely, and the NCAA should do the same for our student athletes by enacting measures to make a successful college football season a reality. A return for college athletics allows us all to take our mind off this pandemic for a brief moment and enjoy the game we’ve grown up loving.

Together, we can tackle any challenge. With college football this fall, it may make it just a bit easier.

Walker represents the 6th District of North Carolina and is a member of the Education and Labor Committee.