When Donald Trump uses… college football to win votes

The American College Football Championship resumed this weekend after a six-month suspension due to the Covid pandemic. President Donald Trump does not hesitate to take responsibility for this recovery. A few days before the presidential election, he seeks to seduce the very special community of college football, because it could give him valuable voices in his duel against Joe Biden.

“By the way, I relaunched the Big Ten. It was me, and I’m very happy to have done it, and the people of Ohio are very proud of me.” Launched in the middle of a debate against his presidential rival Joe Biden, this phrase from Donald Trump went a little unnoticed in the middle of a scoffing show mocked on all sides. Yet it is indicative of President Trump’s commitment to college football. 

Suspended since April, college football is a veritable institution in the United States, the second most popular sport after the NFL (so ahead of the NBA or professional baseball) with 47.5 million spectators in 2019. But beyond the size of the affected audience, many factors are driving the president to take a close look at the sport and hope to find decisive votes for a possible presidential victory. 

First of all, 2020 is a very special year for the relationship of the American sports world with its president. Through the Black Lives Matter movement, and especially after the death of Jacob Blake, many athletes have publicly expressed their political positioning. Never before have so many athletes been seen to disagree with a president in an exercise.

“It’s new. Certainly, there have already been tutelary figures, great acts of American sportsmen against presidents. But never movements as massive as the one we’re experiencing right now,” confirms Andrew McGregor, a sports historian at the University of Dallas. Among the major American leagues, American football, usually conservative, gave in to the sirens of the moment and allowed its athletes to kneel during the anthem. To which Trump reacted strongly, sealing a confirmed enmity with the world of sports and, now, with the NFL. 

According to Andrew McGregor, an American sports historian, this reputation was built in the late 1960s: “This is the era of the new left and the cultural revolution in the United States, as everywhere else. On American campuses, football has become the place where conservative codes have remained, and have even strengthened as opposed to the rest of society. Ideas of discipline, of moral authority, were really associated with football from there. It has become the privileged place of the anti-intellectual people, a line of defense against America that loses its values.”