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Student-Athlete Health and Safety Emerges as Theme in Senate Hearing

As U.S. Senate hearings continue today over collegiate student-athlete compensation through name, image and likeness, a common theme emerged from witnesses regarding the health, safety, and welfare of student-athletes. Through prepared statements, three of four witnesses explicitly cited the need for increased oversight, funding, and resources in collegiate athletic healthcare. Excerpts from their testimony are below.

  • Martin McNair, Father of Jordan McNair, Founder of The Jordan McNair Foundation
  • Christina Chenault, Former Division I Athlete, UCLA
  • Sari Cureton, Former Division I Athlete, Georgetown University

The U.S. Council for Athletes’ Health commends these individuals for drawing attention to the inequities and gaps in the student-athlete experience when it comes to the funding and oversight of their physical and mental healthcare. USCAH is steadfast in its belief that the prioritization of athletics healthcare delivery is inextricably linked to the discussion of student-athlete rights and is imperative for ensuring their health, safety, and welfare, while also mitigating risk for athletic departments and universities. 

WATCH WITNESS TESTIMONY

Martin McNair, father of Jordan McNair (full testimony)
“I never thought to ask about any safety, preventative, or overall protection of my student athlete on or off the field. I just assumed like so many of us parents of collegiate athletes that the systems were in place in the event of. I never thought to ask what if Jordan got hurt or couldn’t play anymore what would they do to protect him? The number of student athletes who’ve been injured or tragically died at the hands of a college coaching staff is totally unacceptable.”

“The safety, protection and wellness of all collegiate student athletes should be a paramount priority before we consider paying them for their NIL. How can we support a student-athlete getting paid when we can’t keep them safe?"


Christina Chenault, UCLA Track and Field, former student-athlete (full testimony)
“The conversation of health and safety is inextricably linked to the decisions around NIL.”

“In my grief, I wished there were more resources, and more outlets for athletes to be heard and helped. This is when I realized that these issues around athlete health were not tenuous ones, but matters of life and death. The detriments of athlete mental health stem from the win-at-all-costs culture in college sports where athletes struggle in silence in fear for their scholarship, playing time, or social ridicule."

Sari Cureton, Georgetown basketball, former student-athlete (full testimony)

“… [this speaks to] just how vulnerable student-athletes are. If they are unwilling to share their stories in an anonymous format through someone else’s voice, how likely are they to report cases of negligence to the authorities within their own universities? How many departments actually offer their athletes enough information on who to report to?”

“There is a culture within athletics that creates a dangerous mindset for athletes and how they view themselves that can impact student-athletes for long after they graduate. In order to make strides in changing this culture athletic departments need greater access to professionals within the field of mental health."

“The issues that I have outlined here barely scratch the surface of the necessity for change within the current collegiate model. Student-athletes deserve to be better protected and they deserve to be treated as more than commodities."

  
Thursday’s hearing was convened by U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), the Chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation and titled “NCAA Student Athletes and NIL Rights.” The hearing will continued Thursday afternoon with witness interviews. The entire hearing can be viewed on commerce.senate.gov.

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