A report released this month about the death of Garden City Community College football player Braeden Bradforth should give every sports program in Kansas food for thought.
In short, nearly everything that could go wrong did go wrong.
If there had been the correct medical response, Bradford might have lived. If the football conditioning test he was running through had been designed correctly, he might not have gotten to that point. If leadership at the college and in the program had been different, the circumstances allowing for the test and the medical response wouldn’t have happened.
“The lack of oversight set off a series of events that ended with the death of Braeden Bradforth,” said the new report, which was created by a Seattle law firm, Lewis Brisbois.
The circumstances were tragic, but hopefully the lessons can be taken to heart. Hopefully no other lives will be lost. Hopefully the health and safety of Kansas athletes will be prioritized — for the sale of them, their families and our collective conscience.
We should also ask why it took us nearly a year and a half to get here.
“I’m relieved, I’m sad, I’m angry, I’m exhausted,” Bradford’s mother, Joanne Atkins-Ingram, said to the Asbury Park Press in New Jersey. “This has really been a long process to just come to know what we’ve known all along. But to actually see it in writing, for me it kind of validates this fight we started, and that we are doing the right thing.”
The college first conducted an internal inquiry that found no wrongdoing on its behalf. The family protested, and the external inquiry finally began. That was an unacceptable delay, one that suggests that GCCC was more concerned with protecting its own reputation than doing what was right for students.
The lives of college students are precious.
Colleges and community colleges have tremendous responsibility in looking after the health and well-being of the young adults who come to their campuses. This applies not only to student athletes, but to those who simply come to study and prepare for careers. Many in college have never lived outside of home before and are grappling with entirely new contexts for their lives.
GCCC promises that it has improved safety protocols since August 2018. Changes have been made at the school, for which we should all be thankful. But we shouldn’t see excuses and buck-passing again. All students deserve better.