football

The football programs at Baylor University and the University of Oklahoma made headlines in 2016 due to criminal behavior by team members. (Photo by Alonzo Adams/AP)

As we welcome another college football season, players, coaches, and fans are busy breaking down rosters, reviewing schedules and predicting which four teams will remain in the hunt for a national championship on New Year’s Day.

The arrival of a new season is an especially welcomed sight for the Big 12 Conference, with the 2016 season being such a forgettable one. Not only was the conference left out of the College Football Playoff, but two of their featured programs dealt with major issues and violations relating to the criminal behavior of their student-athletes. Baylor University fired head coach Art Briles and several high level university administrators in the wake of a sexual assault scandal involving numerous football players, and the University of Oklahoma had two players in Joe Mixon and Dede Westbrook that garnered national attention for their off-field issues. A video of Mixon striking a woman in 2014 was released, and it was reported that Westbrook had twice been arrested on domestic violence charges.

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Manchester United midfielder Juan Mata traveled to Mumbai, India this summer as he launched the Common Goal project, an initiative in which players pledge 1% of their salaries to a fund that supports football charaties around the world. (Photo by Jamie Spencer)

Prior to the 2017-18 season, Manchester United midfielder Juan Mata announced that he would be donating one percent of his salary to a collective fund managed by Streetfootballworld (SFW) as part of their recently launched #Commongoal movement. The initial plan for #Commongoal is to recruit a roster of 11 footballers willing to match Mata’s generosity by donating a portion of their salary to the collective fund that will then go toward supporting the more than 100 organizations that are part of SFW’s global network. Mats Hummels from Bayern Munich later announced that he would be the second player to join #Commongoal. The response to these announcements has been mostly positive with some cynical responses about a millionaire only donating one percent of his salary. However, the announcement of #Commongoal also provides an opportunity to examine what organizations like SFW hope to accomplish.

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Following a season of protest and activism, Colin Kaepernick has been frequently passed over by teams in need of a quarterback.
Following a season of protest and activism, Colin Kaepernick has been frequently passed over by teams looking to sign a quarterback. (Photo by Gerry Melendez/ESPN)

With NFL training camps well underway, teams looking to sign a quarterback have passed over Colin Kaepernick time and time again. It appears he may be serving his ultimate punishment following a year of protest and activism. Amid those who defend NFL decision-makers as simply making choices for “football reasons,” there has also been a chorus of critics who see (black) players as responsible for his remaining on the sidelines.

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High school senior Jamire Calvin announces his commitment to Oregon State University during the U.S. Army All-American Bowl on Jan. 7, 2017.
High school senior Jamire Calvin announces a commitment to Oregon State University during the U.S. Army All-American Bowl on Jan. 7, 2017. (Photo from USA TODAY Sports)

Each year, universities in the United States spend millions of dollars and college football coaches invest countless hours in an effort to lure top players to their schools. The recruiting process culminates with “National Signing Day,” on which high school seniors are officially able to sign National Letters of Intent that bind them to attend a particular university. As National Signing Day 2017 approaches this Wednesday (Feb. 1), millions of people will visit recruiting websites, such as rivals.com and scout.com, to follow who signs with which school. College football fans will alternately experience joy when a top prospect commits to their favorite team and devastation when a recruit goes elsewhere (this is often how I’ve felt as a fan, at least).

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