'College Football Parents 24/7' Advocacy Group Asks NCAA To Enforce Coronavirus Rules
MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
The college football season is scheduled to start in about two months, though concerns about COVID-19 are growing. Athletes have been testing positive, suspending some preseason workouts, and college football parents are among the worried. And NPR's Tom Goldman reports on one couple who have turned that worry into action.
TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: In the midst of a pandemic, Mya Hinton says she and her husband Chris have pretty much stuck to the rules in their home near Atlanta.
MYA HINTON: Cooked all our meals here. We let the boys go up the football field by themselves and work out, but that's about it.
GOLDMAN: The boys are Myles...
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UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Congratulations to Greater Atlanta Christian's Myles Hinton, who ranks as one of the top 10 players in the state...
GOLDMAN: ...He's now an incoming freshman offensive tackle at Stanford, and his brother Christopher, a sophomore defensive tackle at the University of Michigan. As they got ready to head to school for voluntary workouts, their parents scanned the landscape to see what safety measures were in place. They were confident about prominent schools like Michigan and Stanford, but talking to other football parents, they realized there were wide discrepancies in testing and safety measures at the more than 1,200 NCAA schools. So in May, Chris and Mya created an advocacy group - College Football Parents 24/7.
CHRIS HINTON: It's something that we've talked about for multiple years. It made sense, and now was the time to do it.
GOLDMAN: The Hinton's were college athletes themselves - Mya played basketball, Chris, football, including 13 years in the NFL - which gives their effort more heft. They're not just a couple of worried, helicopter parents.
C HINTON: As former athletes, we know that the process is not perfect.
C HINTON: But the 1,200 plus parents who've joined the Hinton's organization are demanding the NCAA and it's schools get closer to perfect during the pandemic. The NCAA has a comprehensive set of COVID-19 guidelines but not enforceable rules, and this creates more risk. For instance, if a school only tests athletes who show symptoms, infected athletes without symptoms could play and spread the disease to opponents, teammates and beyond. Mya Hinton, a former prosecutor, says the NCAA should lead, not guide.
M HINTON: Different protocols that the NCAA we feel is capable of putting in place to make sure it's uniform across the board.
GOLDMAN: The NCAA has rules for recruiting athletes, for academic standards, for player compensation. And it enforces them. Tim Nevius knows firsthand.
TIM NEVIUS: I was at the NCAA for five years in the enforcement department, and it was my responsibility to enforce the rules of amateurism.
GOLDMAN: Now he's a lawyer fighting for college athletes' rights, and Nevius says those rights to health and safety are threatened in the absence of uniform safety measures. There's inconsistent testing, for example, because some schools can't afford the cost. Nevius says the NCAA should pay. In 2018, the Department of Education reported college sports generated $14 billion.
NEVIS: Not only can they afford it, they can't afford not to do it because of the risks that are at play here.
GOLDMAN: The risks have prompted some schools to require waivers athletes have to sign to protect the schools from COVID-19 liability. The NCAA declined an interview request for this story. Chris and Mya Hinton, meanwhile, hope there's college football in a couple of months. They are huge fans, but, they say, they want it done right and their sons protected. Tom Goldman, NPR News.
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