Football players make up a large subset of the Lawrence community, with a distinct presence in and out of the classroom. Many of the players live together in the Delt house and walk together through campus. Football players have a uniquely intimidating stature as athletes and are easily recognized. Even outside of season, they train together and represent a unique group of unified students on campus. Despite many schools lauding their players, the ones at Lawrence are not always held in the highest esteem. Specifically in the classroom, they sometimes face discrimination based upon their difficult schedules and general stereotypes about the sport and its players’ personalities. Talking to some of the guys yields a few different experiences in the classroom that many non-athletes may not realize.
It should be mentioned that there are some players who do not notice very distinct disparity in the treatment of students. Freshman Wes Hetcher states he has “never felt different from his classmates.” Of course, there are a multitude of factors associated with public and personal opinion. Many athletes do more than one sport like Wes, and don’t face the single bloodthirsty, homophobic, dim-witted football stereotypes propagated by teen movies and articles on The Onion. Beyond this, however, many players reported something along the lines of, “There are always some people who make a face when I say I’m on the team.” Though sentiments like this outside the classroom are a whole different issue, they can affect a person’s confidence and participation in class discussions.
To a different end, sophomore Brady Busha says he sometimes feels “like [he’s] treated with kid gloves” by some professors. Though Lawrence football students are accepted on merit, he says there is a feeling that he is a little bit slower than other people, or that professors expect slightly less of him. He is careful not to accuse specific professors of this, but says he notices more of a general sense of condescension than actual unfair treatment. On a positive note, sophomore Josh Mosley also says that this means he receives extra opportunities for help outside of class. “We may not always participate in class, but that’s mostly because we’re tired from practice, or need some extra time to read thoroughly and absorb information.” Similarly, sophomore Patrick Pierson asserts that the football team is encouraged not to wear apparel within the first few weeks in classes. “I have never felt that I was directly targeted, but I have always been careful to be polite and speak up in class. There is a feeling of wariness amongst football players, though, like we should be careful with certain professors.”
While no one came forward with more specific stories or experiences, there is something to be said about the attitude towards athletes on campus, with football being a more scrutinized group.
There are plenty of interest groups with stereotypes surrounding each one, but especially in class these should be abandoned for more intellectual pursuits. Football players are consistently reminded by their coaches that they are in school primarily for an education, football comes second and they should care about their grades like everyone else. What the general public should remember is that they are busy individuals, just like the rest, who work hard and have potentially more commitments to keep up with. When they walk into class, they deserve to be thought of as completely capable of their schoolwork, without any reservations based upon their Lawrence gear or sometimes-domineering size. Discrimination of all kinds and severities is a problem on campus, but awareness within the classroom will definitely contribute to its minimization, particularly as it pertains to athletes.