The line it is drawn
The curse it is cast
The slowest now
Will later be fast
As the present now
Will later be past
The order is rapidly fading
And the first one now will later be last
Cause the times they are a-changing
- Bob Dylan
Welcome to 2016, friends. We've entered a new day in collegiate athletics. One where coaches, administrators and school presidents no longer hold absolute power over student athletes.
Today is time when student athletes are empowered to speak out, and exercise rights that they may not have in the past.
Just think back over the events of the past few years - Northwestern players attempting to unionize, Shabazz Napier complaining about his lack of food following a national championship, numerous lawsuits being filed on behalf of athletes not being compensated for use of their likeness.
Even in Nebraska, players like Michael Rose-Ivey, Mo Barry, and DaiShon Neal taking a knee in peaceful protest during the national anthem. We've entered an age where athletes feel more empowered to speak out than ever before.
Which leads us to last night's events...
In case you haven't heard by now, the ENTIRE football team at the University of Minnesota is boycotting all football activities, leading up to (and including) the Holiday Bowl. The reason? Lack of answers as to why 10 Golden Gopher players are being suspended, despite not being charged in a recent sexual assault investigation.
Despite a lack of clarity, the suspensions appear to stem from a Title IX investigation into the alleged incident. You can read a recap of the entire story HERE.
Now, I'm not here to judge the guilt or innocence of anyone, and that is not the intent of this rant.
If these players were in fact involved in a crime, then they should be punished. I'd imagine if you took a poll of the Minnesota football team, they'd say the same thing. If a young lady was victimized at any level, she should see justice - no question.
The issue is that nobody seems to want to shed any light on the topic, and the team feels like due process isn't being allowed to play out.
While many people would like to point the finger at the players and say, "shame on you...you're given an incredible opportunity to play college football, how could you dare boycott a game like this...," I think we should instead celebrate the fact that we've reached a point where athletes feel passionately enough to take a stand, and can take action.
Even more unique about this instance, they managed to change their head coach's mind on the matter, and get his backing as well.
Maybe the suspended players are guilty of something, and maybe they're not. But to keep essentially everyone in the dark on the matter isn't the right thing to do either.
And if there was in fact any wrongdoing, I'll be the first to come to the defense of the victim - every single time. It's important not to forget that fact. Again, I'm not in support of any acts the suspended players may or may not have committed.
What should ultimately be celebrated about this case isn't the fact that Minnesota is boycotting a game (nobody really wants to see that), but that collegiate athletes are empowered in a way they have never been. Questions continue to be raised about athletes rights every day, ultimately leading to the inevitable question about pay for play.
For what its worth, I still come down strongly on the side of not paying athletes. The reason is simple - I still believe that education is worth something.
In fact, in light of recent events in the United States, it appears the value of education, and the need for those willing to take a stand against events or instances they feel are unjust is stronger than ever.
And make no mistake - this boycott has been carried out in a civil, well education manner. Meetings were asked for. Explanations were expected. Answers were not given to the satisfaction of those involved. Thus, action had to be taken.
Now, there are layers of this case, including privacy concerns, that make it complex to fully grasp. Without being in the room, its impossible to know if the boycott is in fact justified (a very subjective issue anyway), or not. But that's not the point - the fact that the athletes feel empowered enough to make such a move, is what should be noticed.
Many people will blame the NCAA for not paying athletes, for being corrupt, and using "unpaid" athletes to fill their coffers while not sharing the wealth with those directly responsible. But perhaps, as this series of events has shown, there is a silver lining after all.
Ultimately, through their actions (or lack thereof), the NCAA created this atmosphere that has empowered student athletes to speak out in a manner they couldn't even just ten years ago.
And maybe, just maybe - that's not such a bad thing.