One of the most outspoken players in recent college basketball history — Wisconsin's Nigel Hayes — penned a farewell to the Badgers' faithful in The Players Tribune, reflecting on his time in Madison and his growth as a person outside of the game of basketball.
Hayes has never been afraid to make his feelings about the NCAA public. He criticized the NCAA and even his own school during Big Ten Media Day prior to the 2016-17 season. He showed up to ESPN Colege GameDay in Madison with a sign that read "Broke College Athlete, Anything Helps" with a Venmo ID soliciting donations, which he passed along to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Dane County.
Simply put, Nigel Hayes has been an outspoken critic of the NCAA, but one who isn't afraid to back up everything he says.
Here's my favorite passage from his farewell, which he wrote as a pseudo-commencement speech:
"It’s funny how sports is one of the only areas in which it’s “controversial” to speak your mind. We don’t tell doctors to hold their tongues about their beliefs and “stick to medicine.” We don’t tell firemen to “stick to fighting fires” at the expense of standing up for what they think is right. And we don’t even tell students to “stick to being students” and keep our mouths shut about the things that matter in society. If you look closely at the history of social movements for positive change, all over the world, you’ll notice that the college student has been the catalyst for some of modern history’s major social changes. In fact, one of the reasons you go to college — correct me if I’m wrong — is to learn how to think critically about your role in society. So do we judge athletes by different standards?"
Nigel Hayes has been one of the most interesting college basketball athletes off the court, and he fittingly says farewell to Madison with an equally interesting send-off. It's well-worth a read.
Oh, and since we're saying goodbye to Nigel, here's his best off-the-court moments.