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The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

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Langley: Stop Using NIL to Support Car-dependent Culture

If the U disregards the environment, it will damage its legitimacy as a progressive institution and endanger the health of our fellow citizens.
Xiangyao Tang
A 2024 Ram 1500 Big Horn Night Edition at the Crimson Collective event at the Jon M. Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City on Dec. 13, 2023. (Photo by Xiangyao “Axe” Tang } The Daily Utah Chronicle)


For nearly a century, the car has ravaged and polluted cities, stolen streets and homes from their residents and made urban life miserable. While many see them as symbols of freedom, cars are a means of financial domination in our unjust capitalist system. Promoting car culture defends a system of oppression and unrestrained wastefulness.

Despite these facts, the University of Utah and the Crimson Collective chose to promote car use with their recent deals with student-athletes.

Regardless of intention, the Crimson Collective’s decision to include cars in NIL deals contradicts the U’s so-called commitment to sustainability.

The NIL Deal

Name, image and likeness deals are student-athlete agreements with third-party entities to receive compensation while playing for their university. This relatively new practice ensures athletes the right to profit from their identity. Many universities and partnering NIL entities include luxurious gifts and media exposure for players.

Last year, 85 scholarship students playing for the U’s football team were gifted 2023 Dodge Ram 1500 trucks, which were, at the time, worth $61,000 each. More recently, athletes on the basketball and gymnastics teams were given a choice between a Ram 1500 or a 2024 Jeep Grand Cherokee SUV. Unlike the deal made with the football team, however, all players, regardless of scholarship status, received a vehicle.

Of the vehicles, only the Dodge is a hybrid — and a mild hybrid at that. On the other hand, the Jeep is purely gas-fed.

Compensation or Injustice?

While the Crimson Collective is independent of the U, it’s problematic that our institution would be complacent with these deals. In terms of the environmental costs, Salt Lake City is vulnerable. Because of the Salt Lake Valley’s geography, inversions are frequent and the resulting pollution is deadly. The average passenger vehicle produces nearly five tons of carbon emissions annually. Putting over a hundred new cars on the road in this climate is irresponsible and will only add to our local and global environmental crisis.

Despite these facts, the U claims to be committed to achieving carbon neutrality by 2040. However, one can see how letting the Crimson Collective move forward with these gifts without scrutiny contradicts that. A pledge like U President Taylor Randall’s takes tremendous effort; we can’t follow it arbitrarily. We must stick to our word if we are serious about preserving our climate.

However, keep in mind these aren’t average passenger vehicles. Both models gifted to students are large vehicles, which are exceptionally dangerous to pedestrians. What logic was behind giving an urban college student a truck made for hauling, anyway? A trip to the grocery store after practice doesn’t require a pickup.

These issues go without mentioning the racist and classist elements that are present in our community’s environmental outcomes and car infrastructure. For example, Salt Lake’s West Side, a predominately Latine and historically redlined community, is consistently exposed to worse air quality than other communities. Industrial zoning in the area is partly to blame for this disparity, but car use, compounded by the Utah inland port, makes things far worse. While promoting car use affects everyone, the people who will hurt the most are already vulnerable.

What the U Should Do

As a public institution, it is shameful that the U stands by while an entity contingent on it promotes environmental destruction and illness. With parking already being an issue on campus, gifting student-athletes cars will only worsen matters for everyone. If we allow new fleets of vehicles to roll onto campus each semester, parking spaces will become extraordinarily scarce. And any expansions to alleviate this would, too, increase car use and compound the issues above.

While we can’t undo the previous irresponsible actions of the Crimson Collective, the U has the power to stand against this practice. We must assert more stringent expectations if we continue our relationship with the Crimson Collective for the sake of our community. Furthermore, we must do so because of our prior commitments to working toward carbon neutrality. Empty promises are unacceptable, and so is hypocrisy. 

As a public university, we have a unique and powerful position within our community. We are leaders and ushers of progress and efficiency. If we are complacent about lackluster environmental consideration, we will damage our legitimacy as a progressive institution and endanger the health of our fellow citizens. The U needs to own up to its promises and stand against the practices of the Crimson Collective.


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About the Contributors
Jeffrey Langley Jr.
Jeffrey Langley Jr., Opinion Editor
Jeffrey Langley Jr. is a political science major from Presque Isle, Maine. As an aspiring public servant, he is passionate about environmentalism, equity and getting folks a fair deal. He's a fan of musical theater, Dungeons and Dragons and doing what needs to be done.
Xiangyao Tang
Xiangyao Tang, Photo Director
Axe is a photographer and the photo director of the Daily Utah Chronicle. He is from China and is a senior majoring in computer science and minoring in digital photography. Axe joined the Chronicle in August of 2021. In addition to his position at the Chrony, he is also a photo intern for University of Utah Athletics. When he's not writing code, you will find him rock climbing, camping, skiing or hiking with his camera.

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