Donald Trump Responds to Trevor Lawrence, Says CFB Season Shouldn't Be Canceled

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistAugust 10, 2020

President Donald Trump speaks at Trump National Golf Club Bedminster in Bedminster, N.J., Friday, Aug. 7, 2020. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
Susan Walsh/Associated Press

President Donald Trump tweeted Monday that college football players "have been working too hard for their season to be canceled," quote-tweeting Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence's #WeWantToPlay statement from Sunday: 

Donald J. Trump @realDonaldTrump

The student-athletes have been working too hard for their season to be cancelled. #WeWantToPlay https://t.co/lI3CCKZ4ID

Donald J. Trump @realDonaldTrump

Play College Football!

Trump's tweets come amid reports that the Big Ten is planning to cancel its 2020 college football season.

Given how Trump and other politicians have previously criticized athletes for expressing political viewpoints—and given the United States government's lacking response to the COVID-19 pandemic compared to other countries around the world—there was blowback Monday about the recent politicization of college football:

Pete Thamel @PeteThamel

A smart AD to me this morning: "Don't be surprised to see the politicians get involved." Happened with Nebraska and now with President Trump. Politics indelibly shaped realignment. Could the same happen here?

Shannon Ryan @sryantribune

Super excited to see that college football plans will now be political thanks to politicians who tell athletes not to comment on politics. #2020

Rex Chapman🏇🏼 @RexChapman

If you’re looking for someone to blame for football getting canceled, you might start with the guy who keeps saying the virus will just magically disappear and then goes golfing.

Richard Deitsch @richarddeitsch

I'll all for politicians weighing in today on sports. Absolutely serious. Keep it coming all day. Inject it into my veins for all days to come when athletes get told to shut up and dribble and stick to sports.

Dan Wetzel @DanWetzel

Not a surprise Trump in favor of the season happening. Does he also support the formation of a college football players union? https://t.co/3iQYbwZlws

Jason Gay @jasongay

make sure to ask all the politicians lamenting the loss of college football how they have voted on state university budgets during their time in office!

As well, some of the states represented in the Big Ten—Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania—are considered swing states that are important in presidential elections.

While it's hard to know who college football fans might blame for a lost season or how that might impact their votes, an incumbent like Trump, who's up for reelection this November, likely wouldn't want to risk being blamed for the loss of a cultural institution.

Prominent figures within college football like Lawrence and Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh have publicly advocated for proceeding with the season. Schools must weigh the risks of trying to keep unpaid college athletes, coaches and staff members safe—which becomes even more complicated if they have to travel to play games—and the potential litigation if they fail to do so.

That has left university presidents with a conundrum that is now politically loaded, and there will be significant criticism whether they choose to play or cancel the season.