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Ohio State football players will not “stick to sports” and they shouldn’t have to

Buckeyes past and present are at the heart of the social reform debate.

NCAA Football: Ohio State at Wisconsin Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Ever since Colin Kaepernick took a knee, and members of the Philadelphia Eagles took their fight for criminal justice reform to Capital Hill — long before this week’s White House debacle — there has been quite the overlap between sports and politics.

The multi-year narrative finally came to a head last month when NFL owners decided to enact an official policy requiring all NFL and team personnel (including players) who are on the field to stand for the National Anthem or remain in the locker room, or else teams may be subject to fines that could be passed on to the players.


While emotions and passions are high on both sides of this contentious debate, the actual motivation behind Kap’s protest has seemingly been forgotten almost from the very beginning. However, it boils down to NFL players (and athletes across sports of all levels) having used this and other forms of protest in a way to draw attention to the disproportionate percentage of African American citizens that are experiencing police brutality and social injustice. That’s it.

So what does this have to do with Ohio State and the Buckeye football players? A lot, actually.

Urban Meyer has enacted Real Life Wednesdays, which over the years has included speakers and programs about becoming more socially aware, and how to better prepare guys to take action in their community as they grow into a position to do so.

Buckeye alum — and 2018 Spring Game Honorary Coach — Malcolm Jenkins has been one of the more vocal leaders on criminal justice reform in the league, and, like so many of his teammates past and present, continues to put his money where his mouth is and put in the time and effort to get things done.

Jenkins stood at his locker on Wednesday — the day after the scheduled White House visit — and held up a series of signs to counter the false narratives that Eagles players are selfish and have “abandoned their fans,” as mentioned in the White House’s explanation for the cancellation.

Several current Ohio State football players retweeted and reacted to Jenkins message, including Branden Bowen, who then spent the next 20+ hours of his life having to argue with grown men who think they can tell college football players what to do.

Yes, you read that right. A swarm of grown men decided to get into an argument on Twitter with a student-athlete because somehow they pay for football players to entertain.

It went on for hours. And it wasn’t just this one guy pushing against what the players are fighting for, but dozens of others as well. Bowen continued to bring the discussion back to the real problems at hand, and repeatedly provided links to videos and articles explaining why several of their arguments were invalid.

But, once a Twitter mob gets going, it’s hard to explain away that much stupid.

It’s interesting to see the conversation shift from NFL to college. The connection has lingered for a few years, with people wondering if a college player would ever demonstrate during the National Anthem, but the same kind of outspokenness that has become regular at the next level hasn’t made it’s way to the college ranks just yet.

Now, as the narrative gets further away from the true sentiment of the movement, more college players are finding their voice. And, by the strength and maturity of their arguments, these young Buckeyes are not going to just “stick to sports” and I, for one, think we’ll all be better off for that.

Now, please stop harassing college students for their desire to make their communities and country better.