Tag Archives: NCAA

Trayvon Martin: Hoodies and Perceptions

In case your boob tube has been frozen on the NCAA tourney, there is a story out there these days that is bigger than the premiere of The Hunger Games. And rightly so. The story involves a black 17-year-old, Trayvon Martin, who was shot and killed by a neighborhood watch volunteer while he was walking unarmed, carrying only candy and a drink.

From the accounts I’ve heard and read, Trayvon was a decent young man with a caring family and an excellent future. So I would like to believe that something positive will surface from this tragedy. And at some point I would like to believe that we will actually find out what happened — and why.

We’ll see.

This is a situation that now touches on subjects of law, race and politics. And we’re also looking at stereotypes, symbols and perceptions.

And here’s where the hoodie comes into play, as described in this WaPo story, “Trayvon Martin’s death has put spotlight on perceptions about hoodies“:

“Did you see what he was wearing?” asked the voice.

“A dark hoodie, like a gray hoodie,” George Zimmerman told the 911 operator moments before he shot and killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, whom he described as “real suspicious.”

Out of tragedy, the utilitarian hooded sweatshirt, which first gained popularity in the 1930s as a practical pullover for workingmen, has emerged as a Rorschach test of racial perceptions.

On Sunday, many preachers and their congregations attended services wearing hoodies in a show of solidarity with the slain teen.

On Friday, LeBron James of the Miami Heat tweeted a photo of the basketball team, wearing hoodies and with heads bowed, alongside the hashtag “WeWantJustice.”

The same day, Fox News commentator Geraldo Rivera ignited widespread criticism for saying on the “Fox & Friends” morning show that “The hoodie is as much responsible for Trayvon Martin’s death as George Zimmerman was.” He continued his assault on “The O’Reilly Factor,” warning parents of black and Hispanic youths not to allow their sons to wear hooded sweatshirts.

“Who else wears hoodies?” he asked. “Everybody that ever stuck up a convenience store; D.B. Cooper, the guy that hijacked a plane; Ted Kaczynski the Unabomber.”

Ah, and how about old white guys like me who wear one almost every morning heading out into the dark and going to the gym wellness center? I know. That’s not the point Geraldo and others are making. And they touch on an issue of perceptions and stereotypes that shouldn’t just be dismissed.

Like I said, I hope something positive comes from the national spotlight that is now on Trayvon Martin and the events leading to his tragic death. And if bringing hoodies into the discussion helps, then good.

By the way, I dislike gated communities. They encourage elites to become even more separated from the broader community.

But that’s just a perception.

College Football: Pay to Play?

Well, I managed to stay awake late enough Saturday night to see some of the Ohio State-Miami football game on ESPN. Kind of a ho-hum game, especially now that OSU has at least for now dropped out of the top tier of professional college teams. But also kind of ironic that the two universities that currently share top Hall of Shame honors for unethical and most likely illegal conduct involving their football programs still get their time in the national media spotlight.

So it goes. And I know. I could have watched the Weather Channel. But shucks.

I also recognize that nothing really is going to change when it comes to big time and big ticket college sporting events. Way too much money, student marketing opportunities and alumni giving involved.

Still, there is an extremely interesting and informative article in The Atlantic that really examines the hypocrisy that many college administrators, faculty and staff and boosters display toward college sports by advancing the notion of “student amateur athletes.” The only amateurs are the athletes; everyone else is extremely well paid. Time to change that?

Here’s from the article by Taylor Branch, “The Shame of College Sports“:

The United States is the only country in the world that hosts big-time sports at institutions of higher learning. This should not, in and of itself, be controversial. College athletics are rooted in the classical ideal of Mens sana in corpore sano—a sound mind in a sound body—and who would argue with that? College sports are deeply inscribed in the culture of our nation. Half a million young men and women play competitive intercollegiate sports each year. Millions of spectators flock into football stadiums each Saturday in the fall, and tens of millions more watch on television. The March Madness basketball tournament each spring has become a major national event, with upwards of 80 million watching it on television and talking about the games around the office water cooler. ESPN has spawned ESPNU, a channel dedicated to college sports, and Fox Sports and other cable outlets are developing channels exclusively to cover sports from specific regions or divisions.

With so many people paying for tickets and watching on television, college sports has become Very Big Business. According to various reports, the football teams at Texas, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, and Penn State—to name just a few big-revenue football schools—each earn between $40 million and $80 million in profits a year, even after paying coaches multimillion-dollar salaries. When you combine so much money with such high, almost tribal, stakes—football boosters are famously rabid in their zeal to have their alma mater win—corruption is likely to follow.

Scandal after scandal has rocked college sports. In 2010, the NCAA sanctioned the University of Southern California after determining that star running back Reggie Bush and his family had received “improper benefits” while he played for the Trojans. (Among other charges, Bush and members of his family were alleged to have received free airfare and limousine rides, a car, and a rent-free home in San Diego, from sports agents who wanted Bush as a client.) The Bowl Championship Series stripped USC of its 2004 national title, and Bush returned the Heisman Trophy he had won in 2005. Last fall, as Auburn University football stormed its way to an undefeated season and a national championship, the team’s star quarterback, Cam Newton, was dogged by allegations that his father had used a recruiter to solicit up to $180,000 from Mississippi State in exchange for his son’s matriculation there after junior college in 2010. Jim Tressel, the highly successful head football coach of the Ohio State Buckeyes, resigned last spring after the NCAA alleged he had feigned ignorance of rules violations by players on his team. At least 28 players over the course of the previous nine seasons, according to Sports Illustrated, had traded autographs, jerseys, and other team memorabilia in exchange for tattoos or cash at a tattoo parlor in Columbus, in violation of NCAA rules. Late this summer, Yahoo Sports reported that the NCAA was investigating allegations that a University of Miami booster had given millions of dollars in illicit cash and services to more than 70 Hurricanes football players over eight years.

The list of scandals goes on. With each revelation, there is much wringing of hands. Critics scold schools for breaking faith with their educational mission, and for failing to enforce the sanctity of “amateurism.” Sportswriters denounce the NCAA for both tyranny and impotence in its quest to “clean up” college sports. Observers on all sides express jumbled emotions about youth and innocence, venting against professional mores or greedy amateurs.

For all the outrage, the real scandal is not that students are getting illegally paid or recruited, it’s that two of the noble principles on which the NCAA justifies its existence—“amateurism” and the “student-athlete”—are cynical hoaxes, legalistic confections propagated by the universities so they can exploit the skills and fame of young athletes. The tragedy at the heart of college sports is not that some college athletes are getting paid, but that more of them are not.

Pay to play? Won’t happen. But it’s an interesting idea to kick around while watching the football factories compete against each other.