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?
I’d have no trouble paying college athletes. The school certainly makes enough from them, at least in most big-school football programs, and allows them no opportunity to make extra spending money on the side due to their scheduling. This engenders a sub-rosa culture of payments and “gifts” that aren’t really quite violations of NCAA rules (or are, but not egregious enough to draw fire). Easier and less corrupting, ultimately, to just pay them.
As to your actual question, you should expand a little more. (I confess to caring very little about college football and even less than that about BYU sports, so I know nothing of the specific case.) What Smith seems to be saying is that Brandon Davies may have gotten a break because he was LDS, but they used the opportunity to parade him as the stereotypical licentious black man. That’s what the last quote seems to be hinting at. You never come right out and say it, and Smith’s syntax is sufficiently unclear that I can’t tell if he knows Davies sees it that way, or if he just thinks Davies should, or assumes he does, or what. Would Smith think BYU had been more fair if they had booted Davies from the team, expelled him for Honor Code violations, and then exed him?
I think attributing that ancient racial motive to the BYU powers-that-be may or may not be accurate, but a little more evidence may be in order – like what they’ve done to other athletes in similar situations and how it breaks down racially. Nothing makes headlines like innuendo. Smith is a sociologist; in moving to one specific case, he’d seem to be straying almost to the realm of psychology.
New Iconoclast, I tried to give a taste of the interviews without giving too much away. I hope you are sufficiently curious to check out the links (and interview)!
Davies refused to be interviewed for Smith’s book, but Smith has talked to enough black athletes in similar situations that he thinks he knows Davies situation pretty well, and Smith did talk to Davies’ girlfriend. If we compare Grayson Allen’s 1 game suspension vs Davies multi-game suspension, it is clear Davies was treated more severely, and at many schools, Davies wouldn’t have even raised an eyebrow for getting a girl pregnant. University of Colorado had the starting quarterback get his Christian coach’s daughter pregnant, and the qb played the whole season, so from that standpoint, Davies punishment was quite severe. As a result of Davies and others. I believe BYU has a new policy that no longer comments on Honor Code violations of athletes, so perhaps that is a good thing BYU learned from the incident.
Smith is trying to highlight disparities of discipline. Personally, I believe Duke’s treatment of Grayson Allen was too light, and BYU’s treatments of black athletes in general is too heavy. Smith’s point is that most blacks at BYU are non-LDS and are there specifically for sports. Because they are non-LDS, they don’t understand how important the Honor Code is. Having said that, if a non-LDS athlete (especially black, but we talk about Jim McMahon too) violates the Honor Code, they are often expelled from school. However, if an LDS athlete breaks the Honor Code, they are sent to their bishop for the repentance process, not expelled. Smith asks the question, if LDS students grew up with the Honor Code, shouldn’t they be expelled/treated more harshly than a non-LDS person who didn’t grow up with the no smoking/sex/drinking culture? I think it’s a good question, but it seems that mercy is extended to LDS athletes, but justice to non-LDS athletes. It seems a bit backwards, although perhaps administrators throw up their hands and say, well non-LDS don’t have a bishop so we’ll just expel them. Smith says that’s a bad/unfair policy, and I think Smith has a point. Shouldn’t we be more merciful to the non-LDS who didn’t grow up in this culture?
Smith makes the point that since Davies was LDS, he didn’t get expelled as other athletes, so at least the LDS helped him in that case, but shouldn’t Davies treatment be extended to all athletes, LDS or not rather than expel them? 80% of expulsions at BYU are black, despite the fact that just 9% of the student body is black. That’s a rate 9 times higher than it should be if blacks were treated the same way as whites. Now some may explain that startling statistics away because these blacks are non-LDS, but is the policy to expel, rather than repent (1) Christian, and (2) fair? I’d say the current policy is neither. Let all have the same chance to repent rather than be expelled.
About 25% of the teams turn a profit. The rest do not. Minority Athletes who do not go pro are more successful than those who have academic admits.
That creates all sorts of issues with sports.
Otherwise I’d say just kill all division 1 sports.
I don’t dispute you Stephen, many colleges do not make money.
However, when a coach makes $1 million per year (some make more) off the backs of players like Johnny Manziel who works for free and gets in trouble for signing autographs, making him no longer an amateur, it seems like there is a big problem. It’s great that football and basketball subsidize other sports like soccer and volleyball, but it’s clearly not fair that schools and coaches literally make millions while a $400 signing session for an autograph for a college athlete is somehow considered “Scandalous”. It’s not right. If football players are making millions for their schools, they should get a piece of the pie too.
There’s nothing noble about being an amateur. We got rid of it for the Olympics, and they are just as popular, if more more, than ever. It’s a lie to keep colleges from paying athletes who literally make them millions. And BYU is no exception. Colleges are clearly exploiting football and basketball players, coaches (Kyle Whittingham is the highest paid state employee, and Kalani Sitake makes good bank too) while their players don’t make a dime, and get in trouble if they accept “gifts” that violate their amateur status. It’s a bad system, and it’s bad everywhere.
Complaining that college athletic departments don’t make money is a red herring.