Pretending to care this much about football is the latest, cynical political game

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Pretending to care this much about football is the latest, cynical political game

The day after the College Football Playoff committee decided not to include undefeated Florida State in the four teams that made the playoff (but did include one-loss teams Texas and Alabama), former President Donald Trump took to his social media platform to blame Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. Trump said the Seminoles team “was treated very badly by the ‘Committee.’” Then, he said, “Lets blame DeSanctimonious” for the “Really bad lobbying effort.”

A governor shouldn’t have anything to do with whether a football team in his state gets to play for a national championship, but it will be hard for DeSantis to call out Trump’s comment as inappropriate.

A governor shouldn’t have anything to do with whether a football team in his state gets to play for a national championship, but it will be hard for DeSantis to call out Trump’s comment as inappropriate given that he himself has now pledged $1 million for any lawsuit filed that challenges the exclusion of the 13-0 Seminoles from the four final teams.

If you’re counting, DeSantis’ pledge to assist any frivolous lawsuit that arises from what he perceives to be a snub is the same amount he pledged to bolster security at Edward Waters University after a man carried out a racist mass shooting that killed three Black people near the HBCU in August. (DeSantis pledged another $100,000 to help families affected by that tragedy.)

Republican politicians obviously want their constituents to believe that they care about football. As Trump was blaming DeSantis and DeSantis was encouraging litigation, Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., was sending a three-page letter to CFP chair Boo Corrigan demanding answers for FSU’s being snubbed. “There are hopes, dreams and billions of dollars in economic activity that hinge on the decisions made by the 13-member group you lead,” Scott wrote. “Given the unprecedented nature of your recent decision, an unprecedented commitment to transparency is required.”

But that’s not the only regrettable mix of football and politics we’ve seen recently. On the Saturday after Thanksgiving, during halftime of the annual contest between hated intrastate rivals Clemson and South Carolina, South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster, to cheers and jeers, brought Trump out onto the field as his honored guest.

Why was Trump there? Simple. A college football game lasts 60 minutes, but campaigning never stops. Trump’s visit to South Carolina — more specifically, McMaster’s inviting him to South Carolina — was the proverbial wiping of the feet on former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley’s couch. (She’s the South Carolinian candidate for president now that Sen. Tim Scott has dropped out.)

One hopes that while Trump was in Columbia, he saw the digital billboards that were “Sponsored by League of Radical Leftist Vermin — Jay Bender Instigator.” The billboards read: “You lost. You’re guilty. Welcome to Columbia, Donald.” Bender, according to the Columbia newspaper The State, is a Columbia attorney who represents multiple news organizations in the state.

Before the game, the South Carolina Democratic Party also weighed in on Trump’s scheduled visit. “This Palmetto Bowl photo op reeks of desperation — for a candidate who keeps proclaiming the primary over, Donald Trump keeps campaigning like he might have something to lose,” party spokesperson Alyssa Bradley said in a statement. “Here’s to hoping no one fumbles as badly as Donald Trump is fumbling his campaign here in South Carolina.”

Calling the actions of Trump, DeSantis and Scott political pandering would be an understatement. Even with the indisputable economic impact college football has, it’s nonsensical that these Republican politicians are prioritizing college football and its fans over urgent needs such as health care, education and civil rights.

This Palmetto Bowl photo op reeks of desperation — for a candidate who keeps proclaiming the primary over, Donald Trump keeps campaigning like he might have something to lose.

— S.C. Democratic Party spokeswoman ALYSSA BRADLEY

Trolling is to be expected in college football. But trolling the way Trump did when he blamed DeSantis for Florida State’s not getting in represents a mockery of our political process. Yes, all the Republicans mentioned no doubt see in college football fans the votes they think they need to win, but fighting about the worthiness of Florida State’s football team is absurd.

Florida state Rep. Angie Nixon, who has called out DeSantis in the past, called him out some more Tuesday morning on the X social media platform. “Good morning to everyone except Ron Desantis who wants to use 1 MILLION of our tax dollars … because FSU didn’t get picked,” read a screenshot on Nixon’s page. “What would you do with $1M?”

A call for change followed: “We’re over 30 years in with republican rule in Florida. Come November, we can change this in the state legislature.”

Nixon’s tweet is a reminder that as some politicians fight over who should have gotten a chance to play for a national championship, there’s something bigger than a game — political or football — hanging in the balance. In the 2024 election, our very quality of life is at stake.

Ken J. Makin

Ken Makin is a writer and podcaster from Augusta, Georgia. After attending Florida A&M University, Ken began his journalism career in 2004 in Aiken, South Carolina, as a sportswriter. He started his “Makin’ A Difference” podcast after a short radio stint in 2015, with a focus on politics and community concerns. Ken is married, has two sons and currently resides near his native Augusta, Georgia.

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