Sports

Louisiana budget crisis threatens football, shows skewed priorities

I heard about the massive debt facing the state of Louisiana about a month ago, though the story has been going on for much longer than that. I came across it in February, when I was scrolling through Facebook, and saw that the story was being featured in an ESPN article. The article’s headline read, “Louisiana governor: Budget crisis threatens future of college sports.” As a college football player, I was instantly interested.

I learned all about the current budget deficit that the state is running, and how it could lead to the cancellation of Louisiana State University’s 2016 football season. LSU’s football program is a national powerhouse and constantly churns out NFL talent, making the cancellation of a season big news. My first reaction was that there is no way the people of Louisiana would allow the LSU football program to shut down. I researched more about the Louisiana budget crisis and found many articles describing how Louisiana got to the point it did, and what the consequences of the massive deficit they were facing could be.
All of the headlines I saw about the budget crisis had something to do with the LSU football program shutting down, but I soon discovered that the cancellation of LSU football was not nearly the largest problem at stake.

First, before I discuss what other problems could arise as a result of the budget crisis, let’s talk about why LSU football would be unable to continue with their 2016 season if a new budget is not approved soon. If a new state budget is not approved by April, the entire university could be forced to shut down due to the lack of funding. In order to avoid a complete shut-down, hundreds of jobs would have to be destroyed, and many students wouldn’t be able to finish their spring semesters. Even if the school stays open, numerous LSU football players would have “Incompletes” on their report cards, making them academically ineligible to play when football season rolls around.

Now, let’s talk about the state as a whole. Certain very important programs and institutions in Louisiana, including the Department of Children and Family Services, are likely to lose much of their funding as well. This specific agency manages foster care, food stamps and child abuse claims, along with other social programs.

According to The Advocate, Louisiana’s largest daily newspaper, if the Louisiana state legislature does not come up with $15 million, this agency will not be able to avoid taking drastic measures in order to stay financed. This would result in the loss of even more jobs, leading to significant understaffing and consequently, a whole new slew of problems. With a lower level of employment comes increased chances of child abuse calls going unanswered, along with many other very serious ramifications.

The question that immediately rose to the front of my mind was, “Why are all of the headlines relating to the Louisiana budget crisis discussing the potential cancellation of a sports team’s season, when there are child abuse cases that could go unheard as a result of these cuts?”

This is something that I struggled to understand as I went about my day, forcing me to realize just how much of an impact sports have on today’s society. It is likely that Louisiana will come up with a solution to the budget crisis before LSU is forced to shut down, because nobody in Louisiana could bear to see the football team go away. LSU foregoing their 2016 season would be an absolute travesty, but the state could face far greater devastation, and nobody seems to be paying attention to it. The reality of this situation is that sports have taken far too big of a hold on our population. A new budget will most likely pass soon simply because LSU football is in jeopardy, and not because of the many other more serious problems that could arise from a state being $940 million dollars in debt.

There are few things greater than the sense of community and passion that sports generate for people in our society. That being said, there are lines that need to be drawn. Too often, as a country, we put far too much importance on fun and games, ignoring the well-being of others. This is something that needs to change. As a society, we need to put things into perspective. LSU football is not the biggest thing at stake here, and much of the American public needs to realize this.

March 25, 2016

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