Student athletes deserve more respect on our campus

Since being at Wake Forest I’ve acquainted myself with and befriended several athletes.

I’ve seen how busy and tired they are from practice, workouts, tutoring and class. I’ve built a special empathy for them and am quick to tell someone off if someone makes a snarky comment about them.

My empathy reached an all- time high this week when I started as a football equipment manager. Some of my days look a lot like the average athlete’s and it’s not fun.

To put things into perspective, I have to be at the practice field at 7 a.m., meaning I have to get up by 5:45 at the latest to walk my dog, take a shower to wake myself up, and grab a quick snack on the way down to the field. Practice is supposed to end at 10, but sometimes doesn’t end until close to 10:30. With no makeup on, no real clothes on, no real breakfast, and my homework unfinished, I’m surprised I was only 15 minutes late to my 11 o’clock class.

Time has never moved slower. I had class from 11 to 12:15 p.m., 12:30 to 1:45 p.m., 2 to 4:30 p.m., and then had to be back at the Miller Center at 5 until 9 p.m. to tutor. I was ready to tap out by 2:45 p.m. As exhausted as I was, I remembered that the football players were down at the athletic center an hour and a half before I got to the field. I also wasn’t the one doing all of the intense physical activity. While I only manage three times out of the week and my schedule is nonstop two out of those three days, the players’ schedules are like that all five days of the school week.

My empathy started to turn to anger — I might have an anger issue, but I’m a little too busy to address it at this time in my life —  as hard as all of these athletes work, while still being held to the same academic standards as everyone else, why the hell is there so much debate about how they should be treated?

Why is there even a debate about paying them when they rake in millions of dollars for the school, the ACC, the NCAA and television stations while they’re given so much to do in a day that it’s impossible for them to work any part- time job? Why is it okay for them to be treated like criminals by someone literally watching them urinate to see if they’ve smoked weed lately? Why do some professors and students, who know nothing about what athletes go through and the hardships that many of them have faced to get here, insist on putting their two cents in about what athletes do and don’t deserve?

I’ve come across athletes who are more intelligent than the kids who were privileged enough to go to the top schools in the country prior to coming to Wake Forest, and who are fortunate enough to have daddies that can cop out the $70,000 it takes to go here without any financial aid.

I’ve come across athletes who are more studious even with their packed schedules than the kids here who have nothing to do during the day other than go to class.

I’ve come across athletes who have had every single odd stacked against them to get to college in general and they’ve stayed more resilient than any kid here who doesn’t even know what adversity looks like. Respect them at the very least. They deserve it.