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Opinion: Opting Out? Three Words, Three Different Gators

Updated: Aug 7, 2020

Will Florida Gator players, like Kadarius Toney, opt out of the 2020 season? Photo Credit: Alex Shepherd

Health over football.

We’ve heard those three words a lot over the last five months. And those words are hard to argue with because, well, they make sense.

But when there is a global pandemic and a student-athlete tweets those words, suddenly there’s something to argue.

“Health over football,” University of Florida wide receiver Jacob Copeland tweeted on Monday, only to be criticized by college football fans.

Via Copeland's Twitter

“If you think YOU are at much of any risk, you’re listening to the wrong people,” one user wrote.

“If that’s truly the case you might want to quit ball because you gotta sacrifice yourself for the greater good of the team to win it all,” another fan piped in.

Via Copeland's Twitter

Copeland’s statement came days after SEC football players voiced their concerns about the upcoming season with conference officials. To which they were met with a blunt response.

“There are going to be outbreaks,” an SEC official told players. “We’re going to have positive cases on every single team in the SEC. That’s a given. And we can’t prevent it.”

That’s enough to scare anybody -- even those who line up against mammoths-of-men on Saturdays.

“Opt’n out just might be the better decision,” Gators receiver Kadarius Toney tweeted.

Except, unlike Copeland, Toney stopped the backlash at the door.

“Before you tell me what I should do with MY life, Go tell my bro same thing you telling me… He just lost his life due to COVID-19….,” Toney wrote.

Attached to it is a picture of a celebration of life bulletin for someone he knew and loved.

Though athletic conferences around the country are beginning to give answers to the countless questions surrounding the upcoming season, they continue to heed the warning that the coronavirus is a very fluid situation.

Schedules are set to be released. But sadly, that doesn’t mean they will happen. And players are beginning to recognize that.

There might be football this fall. There might not.

A player might contract Covid-19 from playing football. They might not.

But players can evade both of these questions with their own answer: opting out.

To date, 11 FBS football players have opted out of the 2020 college football season.

Penn State Linebacker Micah Parsons, a projected first-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, is expected to opt out – not to mention the hundreds of PAC-12 players threatening to opt out if the conference neglects to address their health and safety concerns.

When it comes to Dan Mullen’s roster, Copeland and Toney are the only two to have mentioned opting out of the 2020 season. However, wideout Trevon Grimes has also voiced his opinion on the matter in supporting his teammates and those in the PAC-12.

“Nowadays you’ll get criticized for speaking your mind...it’s almost as if you can’t speak up for what you believe because you’re an athlete,” Grimes wrote on his Twitter.

Just as 80,000+ cheer for him on a Saturday, that many people should back Grimes for wanting his voice to be heard.

So far, it seems as though the trio of receivers are simply flirting with the idea of sitting out the 2020 football season. But if it were to come to fruition, it could spell trouble for Dan Mullen’s offense.

The Gators graduated four senior receivers in 2019. The wide receiver corps is already set to be recrafted come the season opener in 2020.

Grimes, Copeland and Toney are the only three receivers on Florida’s 2020 roster with substantial playtime in the Orange and Blue. Everyone else in the receivers’ room is either an incoming freshman, a redshirt or a transfer. 

Like everything else having to do with college football and the coronavirus, these cryptic tweets could mean something — or nothing at all. It’s a fluid situation, right?

However, no matter how you spin it, it’s clear that college football players are beginning to find their voice. And so far, it’s a voice that should have governing organizations, such as the NCAA and respective conferences, worried.

These hotshots running a cash cow business shouldn’t be worried about what these players are saying because it’s a bad thing, but because these football players in their twenty-somethings are making valid points.

It’s just sad that “health over football” is a point that needed to be made.

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