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After Trevor Lawrence's move to help those impacted by coronavirus, NCAA needs to follow suit

Dan Wetzel
Columnist

South Carolina is not a place known for its celebrities. 

There are no major cities. No major professional sports teams. There are beaches and mountains and golf courses and barbecue and all sorts of other great things. Celebs? Not so much.

Except there is Trevor Lawrence, the sophomore quarterback at Clemson who in two seasons has led the Tigers to two national championship games, winning one. Clemson will be a favorite to win it all next year. Then Lawrence is expected to go become the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft.

Now this guy is a star. Standing 6-foot-6 with flowing locks, he may be the most instantly recognizable South Carolinian (even if he does hail from Georgia). When someone like that puts himself out there for something, it will get attention.

So it was understandable when Lawrence and his girlfriend, Marissa Mowry, a soccer player at Anderson College, decided to use a little of that notoriety to raise money for those in need during the coronavirus pandemic

On Monday, they started a GoFundMe page and quickly raised $2,670 for the charities “Meals on Wheels” and “No Kid Hungry.” 

Then the thing got shut down. At least temporarily. The reason: NCAA rules which prohibit athletes from lending their name, image or likeness to any endeavor, even a charitable cause in the middle of these uncertain times.

“Unfortunately, Trevor cannot be a part of this anymore due to compliance and some rules, so he can’t help out anymore,” Mowry said in an Instagram video. “And also we have to take down the GoFundMe page.”

Clemson's Trevor Lawrence looks on before taking on the LSU Tigers during the CFP title game on Jan. 13, 2020. (Jamie Schwaberow/Getty)

In an effort at damage control, the NCAA quickly gave each university the ability to make decisions on what charities are appropriate or not. 

It should go further than that and get rid of this rule altogether.

Do know this: Neither the folks at NCAA headquarters in Indianapolis nor the staffers at Clemson, who must adhere to the rules, are opposed to feeding kids and seniors during this virus outbreak. There is a system in place to circumvent this. Lawrence could have always filed for a waiver and perhaps even gotten it. 

Here’s the best move for the NCAA: Don’t stop with Trevor Lawrence and Marissa Morey. Just lift all the rules on this kind of stuff for all the athletes at all the schools. Don’t make anyone have to make a ruling on any of it.

Even under normal circumstances this rule is dumb. The fear of exploitation is used to prevent untold amounts of charitable good. In lots of places in this country, the local college star is the biggest celebrity around. 

Is there some way in which Lawrence might gain some extra benefit by helping raise money? Sure. Anything is possible.

Does it matter?

No. It never matters. We should all want star quarterbacks to be thinking of things and causes bigger than themselves. We should want them to consider how they can help the less fortunate. We should encourage activism such as this from college kids. 

Besides, Lawrence, and stars like him across the country, can be used to raise money by athletic departments in appeals to donors. That’s a charity everyone in college athletics is good with, of course.

Let the coronavirus change the rule here, if not just temporarily then hopefully for good. Clemson isn’t even in session right now. The campus is empty. There are no football-related activities. Should the NCAA even have a say over his actions?

This situation is as much a reminder of an unwieldy bureaucracy and an overly cautious rulebook than any individual malfeasance. It’s obviously indefensible.

Let Trevor Lawrence run his GoFundMe page. Let everyone else start their own. Whatever harm can possibly be dreamed up isn’t going to measure up to all the good that can come at a time when this country needs every last bit of it.

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