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Need a one-stop shop to catch up on the top sports stories big and small? Time Out For Sports airs Mondays on WFAE's "All Things Considered" and has what you need to know about everything from Charlotte-area high school football highlights to the latest updates on the Carolina Panthers.

CMS Removes 2.0 GPA Requirement For Fall Sports, Panthers Sign Tackle Taylor Moton To Long Term Deal

Panthers statue
Carolina Panthers
A statue of a panther outside the Panther's Charlotte stadium.

A pivotal piece to the Carolina Panthers offensive line signed a new contract with the team. Charlotte- Mecklenburg Schools waived an academic requirement for fall sports and will likely waive them for the spring semester as well. And high school athletes want the ability to profit off of their name, image and likeness. But should they? Longtime Charlotte Observer sportswriter Langston Wertz Jr. joins us to discuss all that and more for Time Out For Sports.

Langston Wertz Jr.: How are you?

Donnelly: I am good. So let's start with the Carolina Panthers. On Thursday, the team signed tackle Taylor Moton to a long-term extension after applying the franchise tag to him earlier in the NFL season. So, Langston, for those unaware, what is the franchise tag?

Wertz: This is essentially a one-year deal. It gives the player a guaranteed contract, which they like, but it doesn't give them long-term stability, which they don't like. Heading into 2020, quarterbacks under the franchise tag would average nearly $27 million, offensive linemen would average nearly $15 (million). They normally take the top five salaries from the previous year, get an average. And if you play that position, that's how much you'll make under the franchise tag. There's several different types. I don't want to get into the weeds with it, but essentially that's what the franchise tag means.

Joe Buck (recording): How about this a little toss to Ginn. Ginn slowed down a bit, still going inside the 10. Gets a block touchdown.

Donnelly: That was from 2016, the NFC championship game where the Carolina Panthers played the Arizona Cardinals for the right to go to the Super Bowl. And the man who scored the touchdown, former Carolina Panthers wide receiver Ted Ginn Jr., announced his retirement over the weekend. Langston, what are some of your memories of him in a Panthers uniform?

Wertz.: Well, he dropped a lot of balls right? I remember Ted Ginn when he was at Ohio State. He would return punts and kickoffs. And every time he touched the ball, it was just electric. I mean, he was so fast. I mean, he would just run past people who are normally fast and make them like they were running a slow motion. And he got to the NFL and did a lot of the same thing. He played in Carolina twice. He played here in the 2013 season and into 2015 and '16 seasons. And of course, 2015 was a magical 15-1 when Carolina went to the Super Bowl.

I'll never forget some of the plays he made that season and then just seeing the joy with him and all of his teammates when they won the NFC Championship game. And they all took those pictures in the end zone, which everybody thought was, like, so awful at the time, and everybody does it. So, yeah, I remember him just for his speed and the great plays he made and just the joy he brought to the city in 2015.

Donnelly: So, let's move on to high school athletics, where Charlotte-Mecklenberg Schools are temporarily removing the requirement for student-athletes to have a 2.0 grade-point average to play football. What sports are going to be the most affected by this?

Wertz: Well, football is the biggest one because you have the most players, I think, and basketball as well. But I think for everybody across the board and even probably some kids who do extracurricular activities, I think it's going to be a big deal. Kids did not go to school for most of last year. There were thousands of people we found out that never had internet during remote learning. So, you're talking about not taking classes for months. And to hold those kids accountable, to have a 2.0 grade-point average in those circumstances is really difficult.

And I think the school board made the proper decision to postpone this. I really believe they'll postpone it again for the next semester because the winter sports athletes who started in November will basically play a few weeks and then come back from vacation to be faced with this 2.0 thing again. And I think maybe we need to give them a full year to kind of get back on track.

Donnelly: Were there going to be schools that would have had trouble fielding teams with a 2.0 requirement in place?

Wertz: Yeah, I mean, I've talked to some athletic directors who felt like some of the inner city schools might not have a football team. I've talked to some of those coaches. They feel like it was more of a JV thing than the varsity thing. But if varsity teams were affected, say School A doesn't have a team, so School B's coming into play. They don't have a game that week. So I just think this was the right decision for a lot of reasons.

Donnelly: And finally, Langston, you wrote a story last week about high school athletes wanting to make money off their name, image and likeness, similar to the way college athletes can as of a few weeks ago. In your story, administrators are primarily against this, though. Why?

Wertz.: Some of it is just is new. I mean, we've never done this before. And I think some of it is they feel like Pandora's box is being opened. They're worried about kids being more concerned about making ten bucks or getting a free meal versus coming to practice. One coach he even made an analogy: "What do I do? We're trying to have a walk-through before the game and my running back has to go sign autographs in front of the stadium because he has some deal with the local Dick's Sporting Goods or whatever?" So I think change is hard, and I think that whether we like it or not, this is coming to high school sports. I don't know when, but I think it's definitely coming.

Donnelly: So we know there's a market for college athletes to make money off their name, image and likeness. But what about high school? Is there a market for them to make money?

Wertz: Absolutely. There's definitely a market. I know for a fact of businesses that do want to work with high school athletes. We're seeing 7-on-7leagues. We're seeing summer basketball forever and ever has been a big deal with the big business putting money in high schools. You know, LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony were just down in Georgia watching the Nike summer basketball circuit. And that's been going on for years.

A kid like Mikey Williams, who's a basketball player in Charlotte, who has 3 million social media followers and has done work with Drake and is friends with LeBron and Kevin Durant, he could easily sell posts to Instagram for money. There are guys like that in our backyard. I mean, that's not for everybody. I don't think if this happens that the majority of high school athletes would make money. But I do think there'll be a small percentage.

Donnelly: Three million social media followers. Wow. Thanks as always, Langston. I appreciate it.

Wertz: Absolutely. I enjoyed it.

Donnelly: Langston Wertz Jr is a longtime sports sportswriter for The Charlotte Observer.

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