Marcus Lattimore has just suffered the second serious leg injury of his college career. I hope he has it within him to recover and fulfill the promise of his immense talent, but this is unknown and somewhat more imperiled than it was before he took the field today against Tennessee.
Life is full of unknowns. We don’t know what type of professional career Lattimore will have now, and we don’t know what type of professional career he would have had, if he had been able to leave South Carolina for the NFL after his freshman year. We do know that based on the body of work he submitted during that season, he would have been drafted and signed to a professional contract and been paid for his services.
The NCAA and the NFL did not allow him to do so. It requires college football players to be on campus for three years before being draft eligible. College basketball players are held to a different standard, only one year of service. College baseball players to a third standard, either sign a pro contract before you get to college, or you must serve three years, unless you go to a junior college. The rules are different for each because they represent compromises among the entities that control these sports and that are in the best interest of the controlling entities.
None of these rules are in the best interest of the athlete, who’s body pays the price of competition. It is, in this election year, a disgrace to the free enterprise conceptions upon which our democracy is built. If at the age of eighteen or nineteen, a supply and demand circumstance that would enable a player such as Lattimore to be paid millions of dollars then he should have the opportunity to pursue it.
South Carolina features one other player, who in my mind should have this right, Jadaveon Clowney. I watched him play last week against Florida and was not alone in saying he needs to be playing NFL football on Sundays. He must play another “uncompensated” year at South Carolina, and Lord I hope you see to it that he gets through that year healthy.
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