The Daily Gamecock

Column: NFL must take responsibility for young players

In Clay Travis’ November 16th column on Fox’s Outkick The Coverage, he wrote about the injuries of Todd Gurley and Marcus Lattimore, and how it was “immoral” that the NFL’s age restrictions prevented them from going pro early. 

NFL rules state you must be three years removed from graduating high school to be eligible for the NFL draft, meaning you can declare at the earliest as a junior or redshirt sophomore. Travis believes players should be allowed to enter the draft once they turn 18, and anything else is morally indefensible and a violation of anti-trust laws.

First off, it was decided in the 2003 case Clarett v. National Football League that the NFL age limit is not a violation of anti-trust laws. The court initially ruled in favor of Clarett, a sophomore running back from Ohio State who had been suspended for multiple off-field incidents. 

However, the ruling was reversed in the Court of Appeals, who stated that certain instances of collective bargaining are not under anti-trust laws. They ruled that the CBA is negotiated in the best interests of both the NFL and its teams and players. Since the minimum age of incoming players has an effect on the wages of current NFL players, it has been deemed a reasonable bargaining subject in the CBA.

I can see why Travis thinks it’s unfair that Gurley tore his ACL when he could have been earning NFL money. And it is unfair, but more in a “life is unfair” way than a “the NFL is immoral” way.

Having an 18 and over age limit sounds great on paper, but it isn’t as simple as letting kids just out of high school decide whether to go pro or not. The NBA had that rule up until the 2006 draft. They decided to change the restriction to 19 years old because the draft was being flooded with kids who both weren’t ready to play professional basketball and didn’t have the maturity to realize it.

If you were told at 18 you could either go to college or have a chance to sign a seven-figure contract, would you be able to resist?

And there isn’t nearly as much of a physical gap between high school and pro in the NBA as there is in the NFL. The NFL is a full contact sport. A kid fresh out of high school is still developing and flat out isn’t ready for the beating an NFL player takes week in and week out. 

We place so much importance on head safety, but we’re going to let an 18 or 19 year old, with a still developing brain, line up across from a 29 year old grown man?

This isn’t a question of whether players try to make the leap from high school to the NFL. They will. But, as Travis says, “If they don't make it as pros, so what? That's their risk.” 

Isn’t it just as immoral to tell a kid to make a life-altering decision at 18, then say “so what” if he picks the wrong one? That’s unfair to every football player leaving high school with the chance of a promising future.