September 21, 2019 Athens - Fans light up the stadium during the second half in a NCAA college football at Sanford Stadium in Athens on Saturday, September 21, 2019. Georgia defeated Notre Dame 23-17. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)
Photo: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC
Photo: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

The Jolt: Buttigieg disses ‘problematic’ college football after UGA win over Notre Dame

Days after his beloved Notre Dame squad lost to Georgia, White House hopeful Pete Buttigieg took a stand that could cost him fans in the South: He said he had moral qualms with college football and that the NCAA’s model was “problematic.”

Buttigieg told the Jewish Insider Monday he had concerns with the amateur football model where unpaid athletes receive scholarships but risk grave injury each time they take the field.

From the piece:

Buttigieg noted his view was shaped by his role as mayor of South Bend, Indiana, the home of Notre Dame. Describing the quandary, he said, “I think about it from a perspective of a city that relies on college football in the same way that Bahrain relies on fossil fuel.”

He wondered if technology might provide answers or “is the future that 40 years from now, in the best case scenario, is Notre Dame known for a world-class soccer program instead?” However, Buttigieg conceded that “it’s problematic and I don’t have a solution for it.”

He also said it was time to rethink the trade-off for students.

“Obviously the model says you get an education in exchange for contributing this way, plus the sport is supposed to be its own reward,” he told the Jewish Insider, “but I don’t think that that’s really fair anymore.”

With the comments, Buttigieg waded into a broader debate over college athletics that has sharpened since California lawmakers passed a measure that would allow college athletes to earn money for using their names, images and likenesses.

The NCAA has warned the measure could devastate amateur athletics if Gov. Gavin Newsom signs it into law by giving California schools a competitive advantage in recruiting and because “it would erase the critical distinction between college and professional athletics.”

Not surprisingly, Georgia Republicans hunkered down to defend the sport. The most biting response came from Jay Morgan, a lobbyist and former executive director of the Georgia GOP:

“Hail Mary, full of Grace. Praise to God that neither he nor the Irish are in first place.”

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Former Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson nabbed another endorsement on Tuesday, earning support from ex-U.S. Sen. Max Cleland in her quest to unseat Republican David Perdue. 

Though there are four Democrats in the race, she and Jon Ossoff have split up most of the big endorsements so far.

Ossoff has landed U.S. Reps. Hank Johnson and John Lewis, while Tomlinson’s supporters including former U.N. Ambassador Andrew Young and ex-Gov. Roy Barnes.

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Some top Georgia Democrats are helping to keep U.S. Sen. Cory Booker’s presidential hopes alive after he pleaded for more cash to keep his 2020 afloat.

Senate candidate Sarah Riggs Amico chipped into his campaign Sunday, saying that “his is a voice that should continue to be a part of the conversation.” 

And Stacey Abrams said Monday on Twitter that she donated to help him stay in the race:

“In our darkest hours, friendship illuminates the shadows. This is not an endorsement; however, I’ve been honored to call @CoryBooker my friend. He works tirelessly for a renewal of America & he stands up for what’s right. Let’s keep his light shining.”

Though he has picked up few high-profile endorsements here, Booker was a frequent visitor to Georgia even before he launched his 2020 presidential campaign, and he endorsed both Abrams and Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms.

Booker warned last week the could end his campaign unless he raised $1.7 million more by the end of the month. He said that helped spur his two best days of fundraising, generating more than $500,000. 

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Former Alpharetta Mayor David Belle Isle submitted an application to Gov. Brian Kemp’s office to be considered for a U.S. Senate seat, becoming the latest Republican to formally seek the office. Belle Isle was the runner-up in last year’s GOP runoff for secretary of state, and the favorite of many Republican leaders. You can find the whole list here.

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A pair of Georgia chief executives were at President Donald Trump’s state dinner with Australia on Friday: UPS chief executive David Abney and Dan Cathy, president of Chick-fil-A. 

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About the Author

Greg Bluestein
Greg Bluestein
Greg Bluestein is a political reporter who covers the governor's office and state politics for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
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