I’ve had some really interesting conversations with Dr. Darron Smith of the University of Memphis. Smith has recently written a book, and I had occasion to interview him a few weeks ago. We discussed racial portrayals of Christian athletes Tim Tebow and Jeremy Lin. In my first conversation, Smith felt there were differences in how the media covered the white and Asian athletes.
We aren’t conditioned to see Asians as basketball players. We see Asians as mathematicians, scientists. We see them as quiet, meek, humble, some of those qualities that we ascribe to people. We see Asians as being allies, we see Asians as being safe, model minorities. Certainly someone like Jeremy Lin, who is actually southeast Asian. This guy would be the phenomenon that he was, the run that he had a couple of years ago, but he’s continued to do that as time has gone on. It was a perfect set of events that took place that gave him, that catapulted Jeremy Lin to his stardom that he had.
Tim Tebow is the perfect Christian. He’s a white male, wealthy, he’s handsome, a college graduate, he’s an athlete. He’s got all of the things that embodies a football player. He’s a southerner perspective, so in the south, the image of Tim Tebow personifies football.
In our second conversation, we talked about whether college athletes should be paid. What do you think?
If you look at college athletics, it’s a business model. They need workers, these players are workers. If they graduate, great! Fantastic! But if they don’t, great! Let’s get the next chump. It’s a business, and business has to have employees and so let’s pay them. I’m all for that. I’m all for unionization. Why not? By the time a football player is 20 years old, they’re already having signs of CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, a chronic brain injury.)
If universities recruit troubled athletes, what are their responsibilities? And should colleges be recruiting students with police records?
These guys probably had a mood disorder, probably had anger problems, probably was ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder.) ADD can cause significant impulsivity, significant anger issues, fly off the handle, not knowing how to cope with the vicissitudes of life. These young men have seen things that their more privileged counterparts have not seen and faced, so yeah they come with trauma.
The university should be prepared for that, should have crisis management ready for when these young men.
In my third conversation, we discussed the fact that many athletes run afoul of the law, and in BYU’s case, a much stricter Honor Code than at other schools. Some schools are too lenient, some are too strong. How does BYU compare, especially among black athletes? Dr. Darron Smith of the University of Memphis shares his thoughts on a white player at Duke University, Grayson Allen, and a black player at BYU, Brandon Davies:
I think Coach K is trying to win basketball games. He’s not interested in the moral underpinnings of decisions like the BYU thing, but he’s trying to win ballgames.
While many have criticized Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski for his lenient treatment of Allen, BYU was praised by national sports commentator Jim Rome, who was impressed with BYU’s decision to suspend Brandon Davies from the basketball team, despite BYU’s great season and run into the NCAA basketball tournament. But Smith didn’t agree with Rome’s assessment.
I don’t think Jim Rome understands the context. I don’t think he understands. He is just looking at an incident, an isolated incident. He doesn’t understand the deeper meaning behind it. It was spoken out of context. It was spoken foolishly without understanding the particulars behind this.
Brandon was treated differently than most players, in that he wasn’t kicked off entirely like other players who were non-Mormon were. He got that courtesy extended to him, but the way he was paraded around and made the scapegoat and to me I know that had an effect on him, to be the whipping boy because there’s already a stigma around black people and sex. Now he’s the poster boy for inappropriate sexual relations as a Mormon. I know he’s carrying that stigma.
What do you think? Is Duke too lenient? Is BYU too strict? Are both schools deserving of praise or criticism?