From left to right: Grambling State Tigers linebacker Jacarde Carter (54), TCU wide receiver Brandon Carter (3) and Tigers defensive back Naquan Smith (26). (AP Photo/LM Otero)
In a move that has sent shockwaves through sports world, the players on the Grambling State Tigers football team have gone on strike. The budget cuts that have ravaged the school over the last five years have found reflection in the athletic department and the team decided that they cannot take it anymore because, simply, it is just not safe.
There have been reams of articles analyzing the problems at Grambling State and whether the players, by refusing to take the field, have gone too far in expressing their discontent. These are not the voices we should be privileging right now. The best possible starting point for people new to this story and trying to understand what is happening would be to read the actual letter issued by the team explaining why they had to take these measures. Below I reprint the letter in its entirety with the hope that their demands and their voice claim center stage in the struggle to come. Take the time to read what they have had to endure as a team and why they are saying that enough is enough. —Dave Zirin
Dear Grambling State University Administration,
We, the Grambling State University Football team, come to you with the intent to make a complaint against Grambling State University Administration, and to reach some type of solution. We would like support and assistance while reaching this solution. As a team our goal is to build a solid foundation through team work, and to make progress during our time here at Grambling State University. Unfortunately, there are certain factors that are hindering us from reaching our goals. We have concerns with facilities, equipment, travel arraignments, summer camp arraignments, alumni association and friends of football funding, and our head coach.
The athletic complex is a place where we as a team prepare for competition. In our opinion, the complex is in horrible condition, and has manyhazards that may contribute to our overall health. First, the complex is filled with mildew and mold. Mildew and mold can be seen on the ceiling, walls and floor, and are contributing to water leaks because of faltering walls and ceilings. Grambling student-athletes are not the only ones complaining about this particular hazard. When Lamar University came to play our team they refused to go in the locker room for half time due to mold and mildew.
Second, the weight room and care of game and practice gear are in bad condition, in areas where the floor is coming up, it causes players to trip while lifting large amounts of weight. Equipment in the weight room is falling apart, as well as workout benches are tearing and ripping apart. We as student-athletes would also like better detergent for our uniforms and practice uniforms. The uniforms are poorly cleaned and contribute to the multiple cases of staph infection. Several players have been infected with staph multiple times.
Student-athletes have been complaining since summer 2013 about the way summer camp and work outs were set up. We did not receive Gatorade or Muscle Milk. We had to pay for those expensive items ourselves. We were also forced to get water from hoses underneath the stadium in 90 degree plus weather. Student-athletes often complained of the high grass we had to practice in. The grass was up to our knees and was rarely cut. This was a huge inconvenience to the team. Shortly after that we found out that we would not be housed for camp. Players that live off campus were responsible for commuting back and forth to campus three times a day, not to mention, we were already paying for summer school out of pocket.
During summer 2013 we were told we would be taking two major trips this season, Kansas City, Missouri and the other to Indianapolis, Indiana. We were pretty excited but found out later we would be taking a bus. Both trips, we traveled excessive hours. One trip was 14 hours while the other was 17. Players were drained and exhausted after those long rides. Long rides take a toll on athlete’s bodies both mentally and physically. However both the president and athletic director traveled by plane. In our opinion, any trip over 8 hours should be taken by plane. We also found out that we would not travel to a hotel and stay overnight for home games. It is tradition for us to travel for home games but that tradition was broken also.
The next complaint is about money donated from friends of football and the alumni association. Money from both organizations is being rejected. The funds donated can help take care of some of our expenses. The funding can supply Muscle Milk, Gatorade, help house us or even get the complex cleaned and updated. All things that are much needed. The funds are rejected by the university, because the organizations that donate the money want to put their money toward a specific cause, not the university or athletics as a whole.
The last issue we would like to address is the firing of our head coach, Doug Williams. Doug Williams was fired September 9, 2013; the football team was not addressed and received no sign of compassion from administration until over a month later, on October 15, 2013 which was the first meeting with our President and Athletic Director. The administration fired the head coach without plans of placing a competent coach in as interim. Coach George Ragsdale has contributed to five of the seven loses of the season. We are not in favor of him as interim and would much rather coach Dirt Winston, Vyron Brown, or C.C Culpepper for the remainder of the season.
As a team, support from the administration has not been observed. It is our effort as a whole to receive more visible support and solid leadership from the administration by addressing the above mentioned complaints. We as a team have been criticize enough by outsiders. We need our university’s support. As the voice of the student body we need the SGA to intercede on our behalf. The support and assistance of the association would be greatly appreciated. We can be reached by our spokesperson Naquan Smith.
Grambling State Tigers.
Dave Zirin on how NCAA players are standing up for a change.