Former Detroit Lions receiver Calvin Johnson joined Michigan State Rep. Joe Tate on Thursday in a video roundtable event to highlight the consequences of President Donald Trump’s pandemic response, and how it is expected to lead to an economic fallout from the postponement of Big Ten football.
“There’s certainly no playbook for the unprecedented moment we found ourselves in, but there’s also no excuse for the failed leadership we found in the White House,” said Tate, a Democrat who represents District 2, and a former Michigan State football player. “Instead of leading by example, Donald Trump has denied science, ignored experts and lied for the sake of his own re-election. Instead of helping our governor and lieutenant governor tackle our public-health crisis, Trump has attacked our state leaders, muffled the opinions of experts and undermined social-distance safety measures.”
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That lack of leadership, Tate said, has hurt local businesses who rely on the money brought in by college football games. Tate cited a 2015 study by the Anderson Economic Group that estimated Michigan football games generated about $82 million in spending, a figure he said likely would be higher today.
Tate also cited Michigan State athletic director Bill Beekman’s recent estimate that the school could lose between $80 million and $85 million in revenue without football this year. (Michigan AD Warde Manuel recently said the athletic department could take a $100 million hit with no football.)
“Because of his inability to lead,” Tate said of Trump, “for the first time in generations there will be no fall football in the Big House or tailgating in East Lansing, or homecoming in Kalamazoo. Because of him, countless small businesses will close their doors or see devastating financial losses.”
Johnson recently went into business with former Lions teammate Rob Sims to open marijuana dispensaries in East Lansing and Niles, near Notre Dame’s campus in South Bend, Ind.
“That’s numerous tax dollars that can’t be re-appropriated to the citizens of the other states,” Johnson said of potential lost revenue. “Not only that, the leadership in Michigan here, Gov. Gretchen (Whitmer) took it seriously here, locking things down, saving a lot of lives from day one.
“You can only wonder what if we had done the same with the federal response? What if we had a leader by example that wears his mask, that preaches social distancing and believes in the science? So long story short … it’s leadership that failed at the federal level in leadership and the lack of empathy there about what’s going across this state and the nation. And my heart goes out to the many losses — not only businesses, but people in general, all the losses that we’ve had.”
The roundtable was organized in support of former Vice President Joe Biden’s election campaign, although Johnson did not directly endorse Biden.
“It didn’t have to be this bad,” Tate said. “It really didn’t. Now and always it should be incumbent on our leaders to tell the truth, commit to facts and lead by example.
“It’s clear to me that Joe Biden would have taken this seriously on Day 1. He would have had a strategy, he would have worked with our state leaders and listened to our public-health experts.”
Contact Carlos Monarrez at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @cmonarrez. The Free Press has started a new digital subscription model. Here’s how you can gain access to our most exclusive Lions content.