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Deion Sanders calls out those who opt out

Mike Florio and Charean Williams look at the larger-than-expected number of NFL players who opted out of the 2020 season after the deadline passed on Thursday.

Washington defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio recently decided not to share his views about players opting out. Former Washington (and Atlanta and Dallas and San Francisco and Baltimore) cornerback Deion Sanders has decided to go the other way.

“All Players OPTING out in all sports PLEASE BELIEVE the game will go on without u,” Sanders said on Twitter. “This is a business & don’t u EVER forget that. There’s NO ONE that’s bigger than the game itself. Only the ref, umps & officials are that important that u can’t play without them. NOT YOU! #Truth.”

With the opt-out window closed for the NFL and with Deion probably not particularly concerned about opt outs in other sports, his message unmistakably is intended for college football players. Perhaps specifically those at Florida State, the college he attended and openly aspires to return to as head coach. Given his desire to be a college football head coach (he has guaranteed he’ll have a head coaching job in 2021), it’s no surprise that he shares the viewpoints and attitudes of the men who are bracing to see how many of their players say sayonara to college football for 2020.

It’s already started, and it surely will continue. Even with Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence staying put (for now), other top-end prospects have decided -- for business reasons -- to not assume the extra risks inherent to spending another season at a level of the sport at which they aren’t paid in order to better secure their futures at a level of the sport at which they will be.

That said, Deion is technically right. The game will go on without the players who are opting out. The game goes on without every player. No one is so great -- including Deion -- that they disband the sport once the player leaves. But if a player chooses to play in a season of college football that could be destined to implode, that could contribute to the rampant spread of COVID-19 in his team and community, and/or that could result in injuries that compromise his future prospects (especially if enough starters are positive for the virus and second-, third-, and/or fourth-stringers who can’t hold their own are lined up next to him), his ability to best position himself for a career in the NFL could be significantly undermined.

“This is a business and don’t u EVER forget that,” Deion crows. Yes, Deion. College football is a business. It’s a business that wants to make as much money as possible. And it makes as much money as possible by attracting and holding the best possible talent in place, paying them nothing, and sitting back and letting the cash register ring. Deion is now serving those who get rich from the skills, abilities, and sacrifices of those players, by providing a surrogate voice to persuade them to stick around, despite the enhanced risks to their futures.

Isn’t it strange Deion didn’t say what he said before Thursday’s NFL opt-out deadline? That probably would have created an issue between him and his employer, the NFL, which tried to balance supporting player opt-out rights with staring at the clock at it ticked toward Thursday at four and hoping/praying that the best players (like quarterbacks) would make their decisions to play without full information that could sway them not to play.

Then there’s the last message from Deion, a point so idiotic that the entirety of his tweet should be ignored: “Only the ref, umps & officials are that important that u can’t play without them. NOT YOU!”

Um, Deion? The ref, the umps, and the officials leave the sport all the time. And they get replaced all the time. For the NFL, 2020 opt-out procedures for the officials have yet to be finalized. When they are, the officials will have a chance to opt out. If/when (when) some do, they’ll be replaced, just like the players.

The sad part of this is that so many young players treat Deion Sanders like some sort of Pied Piper. Given his admitted personal objectives and the present national circumstances, that’s precisely the role he’s playing.