Rep. Tate, Detroit Lion great blame Big 10 football absence on Trump

Spartan Stadium, Michigan State University, Jan. 17, 2018 | Michael Gerstein

State Rep. Joe Tate (D-Detroit) and former Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson are among leaders who are blaming President Donald Trump for the absence of Big 10 football. 

The comments were made during a Joe Biden for president-sponsored Zoom session on Thursday. Big Ten presidents and chancellors voted in August to cancel the 2020 fall college football season over concerns about the coronavirus pandemic.

“Football is a way of life across this state,” Tate said. “I recognize the loss that communities, colleges and small businesses are experiencing due to the postponed college football season.” 

Tate, a former MSU football offensive lineman who also played in the National Football League, placed the blame squarely on the feet of Trump and pointed out his reluctance to effectively fight the spread of the coronavirus. The first-term state lawmaker argued that Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden will do a better job in mitigating the virus and help to return America back to normalcy, including a return to college sports and the businesses that support them. 

State Rep. Joe Tate (D-Detroit) and former Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson joined an East Lansing business owner and a former University of Michigan official in blaming President Donald Trump for the postponing of Big 10 football.

“There is no excuse for the failed leadership we’ve found in the White House,” Tate added. “Instead of leading by example, Donald Trump has denied science, ignored experts, and lied for the sake of his own re-election. “It’s clear to me that Joe Biden would have taken this seriously from Day 1. He would have had a strategy. He would have worked with our state leaders and listened to our public health experts.”

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services reports that more than 103,000 state residents have tested positive for COVID-19 and more than 6,500 have died from the virus this year. 

University of Michigan football had a net economic impact of $81.8 million in Ann Arbor, according to the Anderson Economic Group. Michigan State University projects that football generates $80 to $85 million per year.

Trump and Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren had a telephone call on Tuesday about starting the football season, ESPN reported. The president also tweeted about it and promised that the decision was “on the one yard line.”

“I think it was very productive about getting [the] Big Ten playing again and immediately,” Trump told reporters afterward. “Let’s see what happens. He’s a great guy. It’s a great conference, tremendous teams. We’re pushing very hard.”

Johnson, a former Detroit Lion and current cannabis business owner in Niles, also ripped Trump’s COVID-19 response.  

“What if we had a leader by example who preaches social distancing and who believes in science,” Johnson said. “It’s failed leadership at the federal level and a lack of empathy there about what’s going on across the state and the nation. My heart goes out to the losses of business and to the people in general.”

Mike Krueger, owner of Crunchy’s in East Lansing, and Jim Kosteva, former director of community relations at the University of Michigan, also spoke to the challenges that businesses who operate near college and university arenas and stadiums face.

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Krueger said that Crunchy’s is a long-established business that attracts patrons before, during and after Spartans football games.

“Our football Saturday game days have lines of people out of the door all the way to Grand River [Avenue] to celebrate,” Krueger said. “Our football game days are our biggest days of the year in terms of revenue.”  

Kosteva agreed with Johnson and Krueger.

“Postponing football is no small deal in Ann Arbor,” said Kosteva, who worked at U of M for more than 23 years. “There is a real economic ripple effect that we will see across the community.”   

Ken Coleman
Ken Coleman covers Southeast Michigan, economic justice and civil rights. He is a former Michigan Chronicle senior editor and served as the American Black Journal segment host on Detroit Public Television. He has written and published four books on black life in Detroit, including Soul on Air: Blacks Who Helped to Define Radio in Detroit and Forever Young: A Coleman Reader. His work has been cited by the Detroit News, Detroit Free Press, History Channel and CNN. Additionally, he was an essayist for the award-winning book, Detroit 1967: Origins, Impacts, Legacies. Ken has served as a spokesperson for the Michigan Democratic Party, Detroit Public Schools, U.S. Sen. Gary Peters and U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence. Previously to joining the Advance, he worked for the Detroit Federation of Teachers as a communications specialist. He is a Historical Society of Michigan trustee and a Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Detroit advisory board member.