Opinion: UI student-athletes abused privilege standing with Trump

Trump shakes hands with members of the Hawkeyes football team. -- video still via YouTube
Trump shakes hands with members of the Hawkeye football team. — video still via YouTube

I wanted to be proud of the University of Iowa.

When I heard that Donald Trump would be coming to Iowa City, I hoped to see a united front. I hoped to see students, faculty and community members come together to stand up against this candidate’s hateful rhetoric. I hoped to see peaceful protestors accorded the respect they deserve, to hear the voices of professors and leaders questioning the planks of Trump’s platform. I wanted to see the city that I came to love as an undergraduate displayed to the rest of the nation.

Instead, I saw an official endorsement of Trump’s bile.

As a university alumni, I was shocked and disgusted to see the Iowa football and wrestling teams stand behind a political candidate on stage. I fully recognize that each of the players are entitled to their own private political beliefs, but these young men joined Trump under the banner of two of the most powerful university organizations on campus.

These sportsmen have power equal to any public figure. They may not make administrative decisions, but they help make the university around 24 million dollars a year, according to the official athletics operating budget. During football season, the Hawkeyes made the regional cover of Sports Illustrated. We as a nation don’t even refer to them as students; anyone who’s ever watched a collegiate game on TV knows that a commentator’s favorite label for players is “student-athletes.”

These boys are afforded an ability that many adults don’t possess in their lifetime: the capacity to speak for an institution. But last night, the student-athletes abused that privilege. While the NCAA has ruled that the teams’ actions didn’t violate any of their rules, they still greatly misused their public influence. While protestors outside the venue, groups of their fellow classmates and neighbors, were harassed with discriminatory slurs by Trump supporters, they stood in silence. While Trump advocated once again to build a wall in Mexico to keep migrants out, they stood in silence.

When Trump introduced the group as “my football team,” they followed his commands, silently trotting up on stage, smiling for the cameras and shaking his hand. “They endorsed Trump,” the candidate crowed. “They like Trump, and I like them.”

Trump does not speak for the entirety of Iowa City. I know this for a fact: many of my friends, alumni and current students alike, are vehemently opposed to his proposed policies. But he can publicly claim that he has the support of Iowa’s most celebrated student-athletes. He can say he has famous representatives of an entire department behind him.

How long will it be before Trump refers to the University of Iowa as his school, too? How long will it be until I hope to be proud of my alma mater again?


  1. You won’t see the new president of the university standing against this either. Corporate thinking produced Trump, and corporate thinking will find a way to overlook and justify Trump’s bile. Power, influence, money, popularity–these are what the university is now supposed to respond to in order to deliver its products to the marketplace.

    I’d love to be proved wrong.

  2. Last time I checked the football players and wrestlers are individuals allowed to support any canidate that they want. If the NCAA ruled it didn’t violate any of their rules then who cares. They are allowed to have their own political opinion and promote any canidate that they want.

    1. They are promoting themselves as UNIVERSITY OF IOWA student-athletes. Where is the separation of an individual endorsement when it comes with the Univeristy’s label?? That’s why people are upset. It’s not “I’m CJ Bethard and I’m here to support Trump.” It’s Trump saying “Here’s the University of Iowa Football and Wrestling Teams and they support me.” It’s very different.

    2. Dear Anonymous Crowd,

      I am willing to bet that if these same kids stood on stage with Bernie Sanders you would be outraged.

      1. Well we wouldn’t have to worry about that happening because no intelligent or sane person would ever support Bernie Sanders.

        1. Unfortunately, many of our college-aged kids ARE naively infatuated with the idea of free college tuition and will vote in favor of Sanders primarily for that reason, not realizing that his policies doom a strong economy that would promote natural job creation. Thus the American dream becomes more difficult, if not impossible to acheive.

      2. And you wouldn’t be that’s the problem. It is a great deal when they stand with a conservative in such an overwhelmingly liberal venue, yet it would be fine to “represent all of Iowa City” if it were Bernie? I STRONGLY dislike Trump, and Bernie also for the record, but the players decided to be there and that is their right. No one can control what Trump says, but everyone has the right to stand on whichever side of the fence they want.

  3. So you seem to think it is terrible that several successful and prominent student athletes chose to show their constitutional right to support a candidate of their choice (wearing suits and professionally behaved I might add), but it is ok for others to show up throwing tomatoes, blowing whistles, and shouting obscenities (rudely interupting)? Really? Give me a break. Whiners like you are why this country has become weak and a shadow of what it could be. Get a clue.

  4. And Beathard’s teammates who protect him on the offensive line and in the backfield, who happen to often be people of color are allowed to have a little bit of a slow step in their pass-protection when CJ drops back to pass for the first few snaps of the first game of next season. I support these athlete’s right to express their opinions freely and openly, but that freedom doesn’t relieve you of the consequences of your decision to make it seem you care very little about how egregiously Trump and his most vocal supporters have marginalized, abused, and disrespected people of color in this nation and around the world. I was at the event, and there were some cheers and jeers, that all seemed in good fun when Trump announced there were players from the football team he was bringing up on stage. But, when Beathard appeared after the first few players on the stage, there was a VERY clear, audible gasp. You could tell people were shocked and somewhat appalled to see the guy they’ve been hailing as a hero, seeming to work very hard to impress upon Trump that he was a huge fan of the rhetoric he was espousing. Hawkeye fans were hurt, and anyone who claims differently either wasn’t there or is trying to lie to themselves and others. It all blew over rather quickly, but there was a true feeling of disappoint that fell upon the room. We’re all Hawkeye fans, but God did it hurt, and I don’t want to speak for CJ’s non-white teammates, but I can’t imagine there was a small segment of his teammates who were hurt right along with us.

  5. It’s OK to be respectful of the process and to participate just because you have a chance to. It’s not always about support, sometimes it’s curiosity and being polite. He asked them up to the stage….. They were right to go up.

    1. The problem is that his naiveté or being polite wasn’t what he specifically addressed himself after the event. CJ personally sought out a photo with Trump, shaking his hand after the event and posted it to Instagram declaring his love for him, captioning the photo, “Trump the man! Pumped I got to meet this legend tonight. #theman #trump”

      Btw, for what it’s worth to fans who also care about our athletes who are people of color, I know of at least one black athlete on one of the major sports teams in attendance who wasn’t happy about it one little bit. A high profile star of this university clearly supporting a candidate for the presidency that uses the racist and hateful rhetoric of Donald Trump can very well have an impact on more progressive or people of color considering attending Iowa as a student athlete.

      This was not smart. And I imagine Coach Ferentz has likely told his players as much by now. Barta is already doing damage control for this, and is not likely to have gone unnoticed by potential recruits.

  6. I am so tired. So tired of all of this. Who cares….the young men took part in a rally. Big deal. Don’t make this about race. I think it is hilarious that you are hurt and offended. That you are ashamed of being an alumni of Iowa. Maybe the “student athletes “are hurt and offended by this article and your opposition to Trump. You were never a Hawkeye if something so trivial took away your pride. Pull up your big people pants and quit getting so butt hurt over every little thing. Seriously toughen up. Like dealing with toddlers…Big Deal.. ..Small Deal….

    Also I don’t understand why everyone gets so wound up about politics…..our votes don’t matter. When 90% of the country geographically votes republican, the major cities vote democrat. We have a democratic president. Living in rural iowa….no opinion matters….keep it to yourself….boom….

    1. Sure, let’s just ignore the fact that none of the black players on the football team supported Trump onstage. I’m sure that’s just a coincidence. It’s not trivial, ya dingus. It’s fucking Donald Trump.

  7. Do people not understand the point of the article?

    The cynical side of me thinks those young men got a really sweet and pricey gift to stand there.

  8. While I do not like Trump, or what he stands for. I am anti extremist in any politics, race or religion. Think of the students in the past who have supported candidates like : Richard Nixon, Nelson Rockefeller, Barry Goldwater, Eugene McCarthy, Ralph Nader, Ross Perot, George McGovern, Walter Mondale, Michael Dukakis, Hubert Humphrey, Bob Dole.
    What the football players did was stupid. However, if there will be no NCAA sanctions then let’s let it die and hopefully so will Trumps run for president.

  9. So what you are saying is if some members of a team or organization attend/participate in a political event they are endorsing that specific candidate in the name of their entire organization? By that logic there are a lot of fraternities and sororities that are “endorsing” trump as well just because some of their members attended. Last time I checked these student-athletes are students. And these students don’t have any more say on official university endorsement of political candidates than any student or faculty member. So they stood on stage with him…what college student wouldn’t want to have their face all over cnn?! I know many students who would’ve done the same had they got the opportunity. You don’t think there are plenty of other members of the football team, wrestling team, and fraternities/sororities who don’t agree with his views? Your generalization is very immature and unintelligent.

  10. Well it’s a college university. A billionaire candidate comes to campus. The student-athletes support the candidate. Do you not see what is going on?? I mean the university already makes its own money. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a good sized donation of let’s say $20 million?? Which we know this candidate can and has the ability to do it. Now, your operating budget is twice or maybe triple that with the generous donation. Why wouldn’t you show your support?? But that is just my humble observation.

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