Since March, we have heard the phrase ” Opt-Out” as an explanation as to why student-athletes or teams decide not to play. That phrase alone, unless used before the season begins, is wrong, plain and simple. Once the season gets underway, the student-athletes have gone through the off-season workouts and make it through a few games, it then begins a matter of quitting on their team. I know it might seem far fetched to some across the world of sports, but it’s the truth.
It’s time we stop making excuses for these student-athletes and teams and start holding them accountable for their actions once the season begins. It’s unfair to the student-athlete that we have created a pathway for them to quit without consequences. In the real world, without the label of student-athlete, then people would lose their job and likely be flagged for future employers.
Could you imagine if Michael Jordan ” Opted-Out” of Game 5 of the 1997 NBA Finals? We would have never gotten one of the most iconic basketball moments of all-time. In that game, Jordan played a stellar game, putting up 38 points and cementing his status as the greatest to ever play. Had that happened in 2021, then the player would have sat out.
Or, what about the time Larry Bird played through a broken back in a playoff series against Pacers in 1991. Sure, Bird was in pain, but he never took the easy way out and quit on his teammates during their time of need. Bird went on to score 32 points that night and will forever be remembered for his heroics that night.
Players today aren’t built the way they used to be. What separates the truly great players from good players is how they handle pain and adversity. Jordan and Bird are just two of many examples of great players playing through great pain and adversity, for a common goal.
Plus, with the ongoing argument that student-athletes should have the chance to make money off their likeness, which is a reasonable argument for these athletes. But when they decide to ” Opt-Out,” that argument gets thrown out the window. When these athletes start their careers post-graduation, they won’t be able to ” Opt-Out” when it gets hard. If they do, then guess what? They don’t get paid. That very concept needs to be applied to these kids while they’re in school.
The solution to this ongoing problem starts with the media that cover these athletes on an everyday basis. It’s time we hold the athletes accountable like we do the coaching staff that teaches them. We aren’t doing these athletes any good by glorifying them for quitting on their team right smack dap in the middle of the season.
Second, it’s up to these coaches to enforce a strict policy once the season begins. Before the season, it’s up to the player to decide if they want to play that season, but once the season begins. Any player who decides to ” Opt-Out” will lose out on any prior arrangements that were made with either the school or franchise.
It’s time we stop making excuses for those athletes who want to quit on their team in the middle of the season before it’s too late. We face an important moment in the history of sports as we know it. Without accountability, we will face an uncertain future filled with roster turnover and games that will be tainted with ” Opt-Outs.”