Donald Trump's campaign emailed supporters this week claiming that the "radical left" was trying to cancel the college football season, a claim that comes amid an increasingly politicized debate over the prospect of holding collegiate athletics during a pandemic.
As New York Times reporter Nick Corasaniti shared on Twitter, the campaign email quoted a tweet from Trump calling for the college football season to be played and went on to claim in the body of the message that it was the fault of the political left that some conferences had scrapped plans for games in the fall. Trump had been vocal over the course of the last week in saying that the upcoming NCAA season should be played, even as major conferences canceled plans amid fears of the spread of the coronavirus.
In statements to reporters, Trump had said that the virus would not be much of a problem to players, and it "won't bother them one bit." Critics have accused him of politicizing the return of sports, even though public health experts have raised fears about the safety of returning to play in the coming weeks.
As The New York Times reported, Trump had already been feeling political pressure as the Big Ten Conference announced that it would cancel its fall schedule. The report noted that some voters have blamed the president's handling of the virus and lack of a national plan for testing and contract tracing. The report quoted Dennis Kuctha, an Ohio State University fan whose son-in-law played offensive lineman for the Buckeyes.
"Trump just blew it," Kuchta told The New York Times in reference to the president's approach to the COVID-19 outbreak. "He just didn't handle it. He could have shut things down for five or six weeks and figured out what he was doing, but he never had a plan."While some major conferences have said they still plan to move forward with games in the fall, the decision by the Big Ten could be particularly harmful to Trump, the report added. The cancellation means that there will be no games for major teams in Ohio, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, all key battleground states where Trump won narrowly in 2016. It was also noted that college football "serves as an autumn religion" for many of the rural areas where Trump's support had been the strongest, creating a potential liability for his chances of winning re-election in November.