Rotten at its core or it’s bigger than Rutgers

In classrooms across the nation, future Olivia Popes will learn about Rutgers University as an example of what not to do when responding to crisis.   From President Robert Barchi not watching the video of his basketball coach abusing student athletes to their failure to properly vet the academic credentials of new basketball coach Eddie Jordan, Rutgers has shown a level of ineptitude comparable to Tim Tebow’s throwing arm and Dwight Howard’s free throw shooting.  Yet, their failures are systemic; the consequences are severe.  The most recent example of not just incompetence but a level of blindness to the fundamental problems facing college sports can be seen with the hiring of Julie Hermann.  Dave Zirin describes the situation as such:

That’s what makes the goings-on at Rutgers University so maddening. In looking to move the school forward following the scandal that cost bullying former basketball coach Mike Rice and athletic director Tim Pernetti their jobs, school president Robert Barchi hired former Louisville assistant athletic director Julie Hermann. After the homophobic, misogynistic invective that will define the Mike Rice era, appointing an extremely competent woman must have seemed savvy. Unfortunately, in aiming to get beyond a bullying scandal, the school hired an athletic director with a history of bullying. In attempting to show that the athletic department is not a haven for misogynists, they hired someone with a history of misogyny. And worst of all, in boasting about the depths of their research into Hermann’s past, they missed a series of incidents that a Google search followed by ten minutes of follow-up phone calls could have revealed.

While clearly Rutgers has shown what not to do, while the reports about Julie Hermann are troubling and while what has gone on Rutgers from Mike Rice forward are an indication of the warped and troubling values of higher education, I find myself wondering if she is being held to different standards than her male counterparts. Is she becoming a scapegoat? It would be nice if male ADs and coaches (and professors, administrators….) were held to same level of scrutiny and accountability. It would be nice if we talked about police officers who go from one force to next with a rap sheet of complaints about brutality with same level of interest and questions about past behavior.

One can only wish that the anti feminist and sexist culture that pervades sports and university culture be called out in every instance.  One can only hope that the abuses and exploitation be highlighted, whether it be the sensational or the examples of the entrenched nature of collegiate athletics. One can only wish that warped values that lead to a barrage of racist, sexist, and violent tweets that follow each and every loss be called out.  One can hope that we begin to connect the dots from from incidence of abuse and violence to ever growing emphasis on sports within today’s sports culture.  Whether abuse at Rutgers and Penn State, or the decision to have weeknight football games at the expense of academics for student-athletes and their non-participating peers, profit in front of people, wins in front of education, TV contracts ahead of tenure track lines, define today’s collegiate landscape.

We don’t have to look any further than Chicago where Rahm Emmanuel is leading the charge to build a stadium and not schools.  Worse yet, he might as well be moving the nuts and bolts from some 50 schools in Chicago to this new stadium at Depaul. Is this gentrification we can believe in?   Dave Zirin highlights the profit before people mentality:

It all starts with the person who seems committed to win the current spirited competition as the most loathsome person in American political life: Mayor Rahm Emanuel. The same Mayor overseeing the closing of fifty-four schools and six community mental health clinics under the justification of a “budgetary crisis” has announced that the city will be handing over more than $100 million to DePaul University for a new basketball arena. This is part of a mammoth redevelopment project on South Lakeshore Drive consisting of a convention center anchored by an arena for a non-descript basketball team that has gone 47-111 over the last five years. It’s also miles away from DePaul’s campus. These aren’t the actions of a mayor. They’re the actions of a mad king.

These are symptoms of the value placed upon sports within society; they are indications of upside down priorities.  It reflects a shared disregard for the future, innocence, and livelihood of youth of color, whose schools are being shut down in record numbers furthering the both the school-to-prison-pipeline and the athletic scholarship-to-school pipeline, which each in their own ways are defined by exploitation, abuse, control and profit.   Its bigger than Julie Hermann or Rutgers.  Quoting Blue Scholars, in their song “Oscar Grant,

I hear them sayin that this shit don’t never happen in Seattle
And if it does is just a couple bad apples
But if you keep it count you will see this shit is not the apple is the tree
Its rotten underneath. Oh say, can you see no way that is true

When talking college sports, it’s not the (bad) apples, it’s the tree . . .  rotten at its core.


Dave Zirin breaking it all down

Why the NCAA Should Pay Student-Athletes and Pay Them Fairly (Part 2 of 2) | Urban Cusp

Why the NCAA Should Pay Student-Athletes and Pay Them Fairly (Part 2 of 2)

By David J. Leonard

UC Columnist

Beyond graduation rates and the compromised quality of the education provided in exchange for athletic participation, it is crucial to think about the overall value of an education and degree in the twenty-first century. Remember, this is the unit of exchange. The national unemployment rate for college graduates is roughly 5%. While significantly lower than those without a college degree (or a high school diploma), the increased unemployment amongst college graduates along with underemployment illustrates the increasingly shrinking value of a scholarship. Worse yet, the 5% unemployment rate includes all college graduates, a figure of limited value when reflecting on compensation levels of current and future student-athletes. In “Jobless College Graduates Struggle Under Ongoing Recession” Amanda Fairbanks and Andrew Lenoir elucidate the profound issues facing today’s college graduates:

College graduates still fare better than their peers with only a high school diploma, but even their job prospects show signs of fatigue. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Current Population Survey, the unemployment rate for college graduates between the ages of 20 to 24-year-olds soared five percentage points in the past month — from 7.1 percent in May to 12.1 percent in June, compared with a three percent jump during the same period last year.

The rates of unemployment, the limited opportunities in career-track jobs, and heightened underemployment are all evident in the number of college graduates moving back home upon graduation. Since the recession began in 2007, there has been a 25% increase in students moving back home after college. As the value of college education has declined, the profits within collegiate sports have grown dramatically, illustrating the growing gap between revenue generated and the level of compensation provided to “student-athletes.” It points to the heightened level of exploitation, so much so that it might be time to renamed the NCAA: NEAA – National Exploitation Athletic Association.

Sports, particularly basketball and football, and its athletes generate millions for the NCAA, its representative schools, coaches, and a number of corporate partners. It is a billion dollar industry. Yet, the wages paid are dubious at best and the value of that compensation is in steady decline. This becomes even more striking as we focus our attention on the disproportionate number of African American student-athletes within revenue sports. The level of exploitation is certainly aggravated by the amounts of money generated by these athletes within these sports. Worse, yet given the continued significance of race, the level of compensation provided to black “student-athletes” is that much worse. The unemployment rate for black college graduates over 25 is almost twice the national average for blacks compared to whites (8.4 versus 4.4)

Michael Luo, with “In Job Hunt, College Degree Can’t Close Racial Gap,” highlights the grim economic prospects facing black graduates.

But there is ample evidence that racial inequities remain when it comes to employment. Black joblessness has long far outstripped that of whites. And strikingly, the disparity for the first 10 months of this year, as the recession has dragged on, has been even more pronounced for those with college degrees, compared with those without. Education, it seems, does not level the playing field — in fact, it appears to have made it more uneven.

Presumably worse for those recent college graduates, the value of scholarship for a black “student-athlete” remains in steady decline even as coaches salaries and television contracts have skyrocketed. Attributable to persistent discrimination, denied access to social networks, and other issues, black college graduates face a bleak future upon the conclusion of school.

Continue reading at Why the NCAA Should Pay Student-Athletes and Pay Them Fairly (Part 2 of 2) | Urban Cusp.

Newest piece from @NewBlackMan: Party Like It’s 1899: Arizona Football and Blackface Fans

Party Like It’s 1899: Arizona Football and Blackface Fans

by David J. Leonard | NewBlackMan

To celebrate their new football uniforms, Arizona State University officials encouraged students to come to their Friday game against University of Missouri wearing all black. Four students decided to use this moment as an opportunity to party like it was 1899 by donning blackface. The media reaction, thus far, has been muted, not surprising given the persistent intrusion of minstrelsy into contemporary popular culture and the overall dismissal of most behavior from white college students as harmless revelry. Yet, this instance point to several larger issues at work.

The practice of white students donning blackface is not an isolated incident but reflects a larger trend within America’s college’s and universities. While usually taking place at parties, outside the view of the public at large, the minstrel tradition is alive and well. Tim Wise, in “Majoring in Minstrelsy: White Students, Blackface and the Failure of Mainstream Multiculturalism,” notes that during the 2006-2007 school year there were 15 publicly known instances of racial mockery. He describes this practice in the following way:

Given the almost monthly reports that white college students at one or another campus have yet again displayed a form of racist ignorance so stupefying as to boggle the imagination. For some, it means dressing up in blackface. For others, a good time means throwing a “ghetto party,” in which they don gold chains, afro wigs, and strut around with 40 ounce bottles of malt liquor, mocking low-income black folks. For still others, hoping to spread around the insults a bit, fun is spelled, “Tacos and Tequila,” during which bashes students dress up as maids, landscapers, or pregnant teenagers so as to make fun of Latino/as.

At the core of any of these instances is a sense of power and a perceived right to mock and degrade irrespective of its impact; it may also potential reflect ignorance about the larger history and meaning of blackface. In either instance, we see white privilege in action. “It’s certainly true that most whites are unaware of the way that blackface has been used historically to denigrate the intellect and humanity of blacks,” writes Tim Wise. “And most probably know little about the history of how ghetto communities were created by government and economic elites, to the detriment of those who live there. Yet, at some level, most of those engaged in these activities had to know they were treading on offensive ground.”

Whereas in the more commonplace practice of “ghetto parties” or other racial mocking parties the ignorance argument makes less sense given the efforts gone to limit outside exposure, it is easy to see how a lack of knowledge about the meaning and history of blackface might have led these students to attend nationally-televised football game in blackface. Ignorance, however, is no excuse.

The ability to be ignorant, to be unaware of the history and consequences of a person’s action, to simply do as one pleases is a quintessential element of privilege. It reflects a level of power to be either unaware or unconcerned with the potential offense; the ability to ignore and dismiss history is a privilege, one that the state of Arizona promotes through its very policies. “One thing we know about racism is that much of it is learned. We also know that young people must also learn racial sensitivity. In both cases, Arizona State University appears to have failed the test,” writes Boyce Watkins. “Students are a reflection of those who teach them, and it’s interesting that these four white women made the plan to wear black face, went out and bought the makeup, told their friends about their plan, put on the makeup and went to the game, without anyone even taking a second to realize that what they were doing would be incredibly offensive to millions of people.” Watkins’ assessment seems particularly important given we are not talking about Arizona, the epicenter of the anti-ethnic studies movement.

In 2010, on the heals of its decision to institutionalize racial profiling, the legislature followed-up with its ban on ethnic studies classes “designed primarily for students of particular ethnic groups, advocate ethnic solidarity or promote resentment of a race or a class of people.” It is hard not to make a connection here, as well as the larger history of Arizona and race.

Whether arguing that blackface at ASU football game reflects ignorance about the larger history of racism and the potential offense many might take from the sight of 4 white college students reenacting a racist tradition of minstrelsy; or that their decision is a conscious push-back against what they perceive as political correctness run amuck, the larger context is crucial. Ignorance of this larger history or disregard for its meaning is “Decrying the ghetto party as ‘modern-day minstrelsy’ is surely an expression of righteous indignation, but it is only the beginning of the story rather than the end,” noted Jared Sexton in a 2007 piece that I co-wrote for Colorlines. “The persistent challenge is to understand why the perverse pleasure of cross-racial caricature and its disavowed currents of mockery, ridicule, envy and hatred are so powerfully attractive to its participants—participants who, as a rule, rely on the dynamics of racial segregation that have produced the ghetto for the very form and substance of the most public and the most intimate aspects of their social lives.”

In other words, the sight of these four students in blackface is a reminder of the consequences of persistent racial segregation, the cost of a hegemonic multiculturalism that avoids issues of inequality and racism, the manifestation of white privilege, and most importantly, in the context of Arizona, evidence of the importance of ethnic studies as a curricular intervention.   It demonstrates the necessity of ethnic studies because those are spaces where the history of and meaning within the tradition of minstrelsy is learned.  That is the opportunity to rectify that ignorance or unlearn the acceptance of these practices. 

Jay Smooth, in “How To Tell People They Sound Racist,” distinguishes between “what they did and what they are conversations,” calling upon people to avoid the traps that results from the common practice of debating whether or not someone is racist.  Whereas the “what they are” conversations focuses on motives and intent of an individual, “the what they did conversation focuses strictly on a person’s words and actions, and explaining why what they did and what they said was unacceptable.”   Hopefully, we can use this moment to not only to point out the unacceptability of blackface in any context (“what they did conversation”) but to also reflect on its roots and the broader implications at work here.  We need to have “the it’s bigger than this incident” and “it ain’t just about these four students” conversations so that we can maybe stop having THESE conversations so often. 

via NewBlackMan: Party Like It’s 1899: Arizona Football and Blackface Fans.