#SportBits … Spatting


Last year, the University of Missouri football team threatened to boycott the last three games of the season amid racial tensions on campus and the administration’s perceived failure to address students’ concerns…

Players refused to take part in any football-related activities until school president Tim White was replaced. It worked. Tim White resigned.

However, pulling off a strike in college sports can be tricky and with the many issues facing student athletes today, there needs to be a better way for players to protest and make their voices heard. This is one method I think could be highly effective because it hits the schools where it hurts: their wallets. It’s called spatting.

Spatting is when a player covers her/his athletic shoe with tape in order to prevent ankle injuries. It is a common practice in football, but it can have serious financial consequences for a university. Companies like Nike, Adidas and Under Armour pay millions to schools in apparel contracts and they do NOT want their logos covered.

In August, University of Michigan’s athletic department began a partnership with Nike that will pay the university at least $173.8 million through 2031. Under the terms and conditions of the contract, Michigan acknowledges “polishing-out” or “spatting” is not allowed. All of the collegiate contracts have consequence for excessive spatting. They range from contract termination to percentage reduction in the base compensation.

For example, at the University of Texas, the Nike contract states:

“For each game in which 5 or more shoes [not pairs, but individual shoes] appear on-field (in game action) polished-out, spatted or taped for any reason [excluding medical reason], Nike shall have the right to reduce annual scheduled Base Compensation by $20,000 per shoe (in excess of five shoes) . . . up to a maximum of $100,000.”

That’s $20,000 PER SHOE! So, if five players wearing a total of 10 shoes spat, then the school loses $100,000 of its annual compensation from Nike. In addition, there is a penalty for repeated occurrences, “Nike shall have the right to reduce annual schedule Base Compensation by $30,000” for each such subsequent occurrence.”

If a student athlete tells a trainer she/he needs extra ankle support because of an ill-fitting shoe or sore ankles, is the school going to put economic incentive over the health and welfare of that athlete? You would hope not – but one can’t be too sure. It certainly would be a PR nightmare.

Student athletes have a lot to gripe about these days. Whether it’s their long standing belief that they are being used for profit without input or cut of the revenue or the disgraceful fact that schools offer NO INSURANCE for players should they get hurt while on the “job” to their general concerns over long-term health effects resulting from their respective sports, players need a voice and need to be heard. So, if placing some tape over that swoosh is going to get the schools’ attention, I say #justdoit.

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