Toxic Masculinity Costs Texas A&M Recruits

By Doctor Comrade

ESPN reported that quarterback Tate Martell decommitted from Texas A&M and was reopening his recruiting process, leading to Texas A&M assistant coach Aaron Moorehead tweeting about the player, questioning his loyalty: "I feel sorry for ppl who never understand loyalty. I can't really even vibe with u. At the end of the day trust is 💯 & everything else is BS." Later that night, two other players, receivers Mannie Netherly and Tyjon Lindsey, also decommitted, referencing the offensive tweets posted by their "future coach." Rather than stopping his Twitter tirade, Moorehead doubled down, tweeting this series of tweets:

"I wasn't even talking about who everyone thinks I'm talking about. I didn't even know #badtiming #relevanttho #stillnoloyalty."
"People act like the truth is all the sudden a bad thing. Society is too sensitive. Y'all boys soft. #texastough"
"I love Texas A&M football. I guard it and respect it with my life. I don't take that lightly day to day"

This can all be traced to the toxically masculine environment fostered by many football programs. And moreover, this coach's tantrum offers a troubling insight into the world of recruiting and the expectations placed on many young men.

Firstly, it's absurd to question the loyalty of young men who are attempting to look out for their best interests. It's well documented that collegiate football programs often abandon injured players, rescind their financial aid, and cut their college careers short. What seems obvious is that college football programs have no loyalty towards their own players, and it's both hypocritical and nonsensical to demand loyalty from young men who don't even attend the university yet.

Secondly, the loyalty demanded by coaches like Moorehead only heightens the contradictions inherent to collegiate athletics. Moorehead, who is employed by Texas A&M and makes a salary of $250,000, is in no position to question the loyalty of students who are not compensated for their labor. If education is the only tangible good exchanged for student athletes' labor, then it is in the best interest of the student to carefully analyze and judge which school would be best for them. Following Moorehead's Twitter tantrum, it makes complete sense that some young men would decide that Texas A&M is clearly not a good fit.

Let's also look at the language Moorehead used in his tweets. Besides loyalty, he also questioned how "sensitive" the "boys" are because they're "soft." This implies--among other things--that these young men are incapable of acting like real men. According to Moorehead, and in clearly sexist terms, he has claimed that these young men have the traits typically associated with women and homosexuals. Their "sensitivity" and "softness" stands in the way of playing a game that is--almost universally--foreclosed to women and discriminates against gay players. This is a culture that demands strict adherence to masculine tropes like toughness (#texastough), willpower, manliness, and violence, often at the expense of respect for players who dare to question these repressive traditions.

Then Moorehead went on to say that "I guard [football] and respect it with my life." Hold the phone, champ, this isn't democracy or the American Way. You're not a warrior or a soldier, you're a football coach. Your life isn't in danger, and it's not like the other teams in the Southeastern Conference are launching mortar shells from the opposite sideline. But it's clear that he's couching his defense of the program in military terms, further indicating the entrenched belief that football is a masculine and war-like activity, steeped in a tradition that tells young men that the children's game they are engaged in is like fighting a war. This is toxic male bonding, a kind of perverse war game to force these young men into rigidly masculine roles.

Moorehead has since apologized.

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