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:
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:
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.