Ex-NFL receiver Rep. Anthony Gonzalez: Big Ten skipping football season could be 'catastrophic' for athletes

Ex-NFL receiver Rep. Anthony Gonzalez: Big Ten skipping football season could be 'catastrophic' for athletes
© Getty Images

A former NFL wide receiver now serving in Congress said Tuesday that it would be an "enormous mistake" for the Big Ten Conference to skip college football games this fall due to coronavirus concerns.

In an interview with USA Today, Rep. Anthony GonzalezAnthony GonzalezHillicon Valley: DOJ indicts Chinese, Malaysian hackers accused of targeting over 100 organizations | GOP senators raise concerns over Oracle-TikTok deal | QAnon awareness jumps in new poll House passes legislation to boost election security research Ex-NFL receiver Rep. Anthony Gonzalez: Big Ten skipping football season could be 'catastrophic' for athletes MORE (R-Ohio) echoed calls from other Republicans including President TrumpDonald John TrumpBubba Wallace to be driver of Michael Jordan, Denny Hamlin NASCAR team Graham: GOP will confirm Trump's Supreme Court nominee before the election Southwest Airlines, unions call for six-month extension of government aid MORE for schools to resume normal activities in the fall amid rising numbers of new coronavirus cases around the country.

“I learned more in that college football environment than I did in any classroom or in any other environment that I've ever been in,” Gonzalez said. “So, to take that opportunity away from these kids, many of whom come from some of the most difficult backgrounds that this country has to offer, I think is catastrophic for them."

ADVERTISEMENT

“The risk of playing to me and catching the virus doesn't appear to be different from the risk of being on campus and catching the virus,” he continued. “The world we're living in isn't a world where you're choosing between playing football with COVID risk and not playing football with no COVID risk."

Debate has raged for months over whether schools, including colleges and universities where students often live in dormitories or other close-quarter living situations, should return in the fall for on-campus learning even as the U.S. has surpassed more than 5 million total coronavirus cases and has yet to slow the spread of new infections nationwide.

Trump and other top administration officials have pushed for schools to reopen for in-person learning in order to allow parents to return to work, and in recent days the president has called for college football, specifically, to go forward as normal.

"The student-athletes have been working too hard for their season to be cancelled," the president tweeted Monday, sharing the hashtag #WeWantToPlay which has been used by some prominent college football players to call for the season to go ahead.

Others, including Sen. Ben SasseBenjamin (Ben) Eric SasseChamber of Commerce endorses McSally for reelection Ben Sasse is mistaken with idea for the election of senators in America Big Ten football to return in October MORE (R-Neb.), have also urged Big Ten schools to play the season normally.

“Life is about tradeoffs. There are no guarantees that college football will be completely safe — that’s absolutely true; it’s always true," he wrote in a letter to Big Ten school officials. "But the structure and discipline of football programs is very likely safer than what the lived experience of 18- to 22-year-olds will be if there isn’t a season."