Posts Tagged ‘sports’

My nine year-old daughter is a beast on the track. She has trained with a venerable club in Durham, North Carolina for the last two years. Despite its inner-city membership, we love what it stands for: building character and discipline. The Durham Striders have consistently trained athletes who have won many medals and built a reputation of improving the lives of inner-city youth.

However, as a parent in the stands, I didn’t fit in with the general school of thought in the group. For us, track was an avenue of discipline and focus for our child. She is a natural athlete and loves to compete; thus this outlet was just what she needed. It never occurred to us that this hot, sweaty, demanding torture was a means to an end, the end being an athletic scholarship.

Scholarships are great. I went to college with them. My older children received full academic scholarships. With the ridiculous cost of college tuition these days, there are far more families sending students to college with some form of financial aid than there are parents writing blank checks.

But my daughter didn’t run for the money she might get down the road.

Unfortunately, many families of minorities believe the only way their children will be successful is if they play a sport and get a full ride to a big college or university.

Why? Is it because they know that inherently the schools their children have attended are not good enough and have not prepared their children well enough to pursue any profession?

Maybe the parents weren’t educated and thus couldn’t provide the academic support their children needed to do well in school.

It certainly seems clear that many “minority” groups including African-Americans and Hispanics (especially those with African ancestry) are gifted physiologically, with an inherent ability to excel in sports. A friend once told me that God knew what he was doing when he gave minorities their portion, because he knew what they would have to endure long before they did.

The other night I watched an interview on the local news with a former University of North Carolina employee, Mary Willingham, who has co-authored a book called Cheated: The UNC Scandal, the Education of Athletes and the Future of Big-time College Sports.

Can you tell who is in charge?

She blew my mind during the interview when she called the NCAA a “cartel” and likened them to a plantation, extorting the African-American athletes to help earn millions of dollars and thus paying for all the other sports at universities which generate less revenue, like lacrosse, field hockey, etc. which are all the “White” sports, the sports of the privileged. Here’s the link for the nterview:

Aside from dating a couple of basketball players in college, I don’t know a thing about college sports.  But I was an avid supporter of my student athletes when I taught high school, standing outside in the freezing cold collecting money during football games, and sitting under blankets with my equally frozen children, because the athletes wanted to see their teacher there.

But I stopped going to any high school games or offering my support of any kind when I was pressured to pass a kid along, or change a grade, or give the athlete another chance.  When the parent showed up in my trailer in tears, telling me their kid would have no future if they didn’t pass my class, and that sports was all they had, I became angry.

I was angry that the parent had such a low opinion of their child’s intellectual ability, of their academic potential, that they defaulted for them the only thing they could: the equivalent of slave labor.  They essentially sold their child to work for free, in scorching heat, for hours each day, for the white man.  After all, we know who has the money don’t we? In college athletics, high school booster clubs, and professional sports.

Why else would Marshawn Lynch be fined hundreds of thousands of dollars by the NFL? The puppet had to perform, keep the stakeholders happy, the ones who wanted to see a sweaty athlete offer a verbal recap of violent plays just to feed the man’s bloodthirsty power trip.

Just look at the owners of these NFL teams, as they stand (during the 4th quarter, with two minutes left on the clock) and you can see them making mental calculations in their heads of a win or a loss and what it will mean for their bottom line that week.

From high school sports all the way to the pros, the Black man (and others) continues to fall for a system of subjugation and control.

The “no other way out” mentality for minorities is visible in every area of modern society. Jim Caviezel starred in an inspiring film based on the true story of De la Salle high school and their winning streak.  I loved everything that Coach Ladouceur believed in and stood for, but the same one way ticket to modern slavery still rang true for the athletes of color.

I can think of tons of movies and stories where athletics is the only answer for the minority students.

And yes, it’s a great option for a young student, but why can’t there be anything else? Why can’t schools and parents push their children academically and say, “Just imagine son, you can get an academic scholarship and an athletic one. You’re an athletic scholar. You can have it all.” Unfortunately, what he hears more commonly is, “Well, he ain’t got no daddy, so football all he got and he needs to get out there and get himself a scholarship to play ball.” Junior hangs onto that instead.

Ms. Willingham has been walking a lonely road for the last four years, amid the scandal of phony classes and the easy way for UNC athletes. It’s a road I am quite familiar with.  And I know many of the teachers in Chapel Hill High School were tutors for the athletes after they did their day job educating the privileged white kids. It is a corrupt and wicked system Ms. Willingham exposed at UNC and she paid a painful price for it, as I did in the very same town. But there’s something to be said about having ethics. I found I slept better at night with my ethics than I would have without a soul.

How can this nation gain an equal footing racially when everywhere they look, white people see minorities still serving them, still living smaller, earning less, and being subjugated?

I told my partner that if every professional athlete in the NFL who is African-American refused to play ball on one Sunday during the riots after Mike Brown was executed, the nation would have been forced to deal with it, like a slap in the face.  After all, money talks.



The blame in all of this, including the recent scandal in the athletic department at UNC, lies not with the athletes, but with faculty members, department heads and athletic departments who are willing to cheat the system in order to keep athletes academically eligible to play.

As one coach told me at a party: “Athletic departments, and that includes high schools, will do anything to keep their players eligible. Nothing will change unless there are major reforms. The cheating will continue. Just don’t get caught!.”  ( 


These are the kinds of topics that burn me up, that make a quiet Sunday an inner hothouse and compel me to speak my mind instead of working on my latest Pinterest project.  As I sipped my delicious, life-altering coffee in my favorite Minnie Mouse mug, memories flooded back to different occasions where I was the victim of the Athletic Supremacy Game.

It’s a racket.

It’s corruption in its purest form (Is that an oxymoron?).

It is reprehensible to me.

Let me go back to the year 2005.  I had a six month old baby, and four other children and was trying my hardest to teach in an inner city school I transferred to when my earlier school closed down.  This school had frequent lock downs, stabbings, weapons smuggled into the building, and everything that was anything was going on in that school except learning.  I don’t think they gave Bill Gates a tour of this particular school when the powers that be were actively sucking millions of dollars from his vast pockets.

I had a group of students who needed me and I believed in them so I was giving it my all.  One student in particular concerned me because his attendance was sporadic and when he was in class, it was clear to me the reason he avoided English class.  He could hardly formulate a coherent sentence on paper.  Like many kids, he disguised it underneath his ultra-cool, casual, “whatever” demeanor.  But most experienced teachers can see right through those flimsy curtains.

Here’s what was “special” about this young man.  He was gargantuan in height.  Granted, everyone is tall when standing next to me, but this was the NBA player kind of tall.  Guess what sport he played? How did I know this?  His coach came to visit me regularly, to ask how his star player was doing, and graciously tell me of his future plans to play college ball, and so on…(yawning)…

Naturally, it was all very proper until the end of the semester, when the after school visits began.  See, there was no way on this earth that the future NBA star was going to pass my class. He: never completed assignments, never studied, rarely attended class…need I say more?  All the coach’s promises that he would work with him on assignments throughout the year were meaningless, so they correlated perfectly with this failing grade.

I was finally told at point-blank range, that he needed to pass English and “let me get some make up work for him and I’ll make sure he does it.”  Whenever I hear the words “Let me get some make up work…” my brain begins to spin and spots begin to form behind my eyes, which results in a dazzling array of reds and purples.  Suffice it to say, I can’t see straight for a moment. I refused to just pass him along, and the matter was taken out of my hands because the school changed his grade for him.

Now fast forward a few years, three to be exact.  My first child applied to a couple of schools, one of them the Georgia Institute of Technology, or Georgia Tech, a fine school.  I felt that the application fee was a waste of money because he didn’t really have the discipline to join the ranks of elite geekdom genius that is Ga. Tech.  But far be it from me to shatter my child’s dream.  He had a great transcript, natural above average intelligence (from his mama!) and was a god with computer intricacies.  But he didn’t make it into Georgia Tech, which was fine with me.

Guess who did the next year? Mr. NBA future Kobe Bryant himself.  If I was feeling particularly daring, I would throw all caution to the wind and reveal this NBA player’s name, but I haven’t had quite enough coffee for that random act of rashness.

If you read the article from Dr. Barber at the top, you will see that this favoritism towards athletes extends all the way up to the college level.  I try not to get caught up asking too many questions but I wonder:  why do so many fans pay millions of dollars collectively to cheer and shout and fanatically wear a school’s colors for athletes who have snuck in the back door and are not able to meet the academic rigor that is college?  Why is it okay for them to sneak in and then get a “free ride” when I have thousands of dollars in student loans for my college education that I busted my behind to earn? Because I can’t dribble a ball? Maybe I’m not tall enough.

I’ll tell you why.  It’s because everyone in America is sweltering in a cesspool of their own hypocrisy.  The wealthy alumnae proudly tie their collegiate sweaters around their shoulders, carry their foam seat cushions and drive their Lexus (understated elegance of course) sedans to the arenas and stadiums to cheer for their school, proud to sit like royalty in their VIP seats.  What is America cheering for?  Shortcuts? Favors? Corruption?

And these same hypocrites are the ones who tsk tsk when public schools aren’t performing as they should be, and children are dropping out at an alarming rate. Or teachers want to strike!

My partner always says: “Leadership starts at the top.”  when If our leaders engage in dirty educational favors for America’s favorite pastime, SPORTS, then what do we expect from our children? Our teachers?