Why Michigan Must Retire Chris Webber's Jersey to Enact Real Change
The very public 10-year disassociation between Michigan and Chris Webber ended on Wednesday, and Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon made it known that he’s willing to acknowledge that Webber and company exist again.
Hey, he’ll even talk to them.
“I've never met any of those guys, and I am looking forward to meeting them," Brandon told The Associated Press. “If any of those guys are interested in meeting with me, that would be great."
This was Brandon’s way of putting the ball in Webber’s court. You want to be a part of Michigan? Oh swell. Let’s chat.
That’s not going to be enough.
This disassociation was not Michigan’s doing—it was the NCAA’s. But it might as well have been Michigan.
Webber, Maurice Taylor, Robert Traylor (now deceased) and Louis Bullock were made out to be the bad guys for accepting money from a bad guy in Ed Martin.
Was it a mistake for them to take money? Yes. But can you really blame them?
Those in charge at Michigan felt like they could. They took every opportunity to turn up their nose at Webber. They’ve asked him to apologize. University president Mary Sue Coleman took down the Final Four banners Webber helped raise, and as recently as a last year, she made it clear those banners aren’t going back up as long as she’s around.
“Some day, I won't be president anymore, and maybe someone else will have a different view,” Coleman told The Michigan Daily, the school’s student paper, last year. “But I think you have to reflect on the larger meaning and that we want to hold ourselves to a higher standard.”
If that’s how Michigan wants to be, fine.
Coleman and Brandon can choose not to forgive some men who made a choice a long time ago as kids that almost any kid would have made.
What should Michigan do to recognize Chris Webber?
If Webber decided to donate some money to the school, which he ironically is now allowed to do since the disassociation has ended, I’m sure Coleman and Brandon would be more than willing to take his money.
They should also realize that Webber made Michigan a whole lot more money than he was ever given by Ed Martin. They should realize, whether they want to acknowledge it or not, he’s the best player to ever play for Michigan. He is a Michigan legend.
If we’re playing a word association game, when you say Michigan, most the country says Fab Five.
If you show us a picture of Webber, we say Michigan and Fab Five.
This is a relationship worth mending. Michigan still means something to Webber—at least his actions say as much. He attended the national championship game last month. At midnight Tuesday night, when the disassociation officially ended, he tweeted “OK!!!"
OK!!!— Chris Webber (@realchriswebber) May 8, 2013
"It's not on Chris; it's on Michigan," Jalen Rose told the Detroit News. "They can choose to acknowledge what we accomplished regardless of what he does.
"If it's not something that affects their bottom line, they're not going to be in a rush to act."
There was a lot of ugly in this whole situation and there were a lot of hurt feelings. At the very least, Michigan owes it to the other four members of the Fab Five to put their banners back up. They did not get those banners because Martin gave Webber some cash. They are a part of history that should be acknowledged.
Webber doesn’t need to meet Michigan’s athletic director to feel like he’s part of Michigan again. If Michigan really wants to accept Webber as a Wolverine again, they’ll acknowledge what he was on the court.
Webber, the player, deserves to have his jersey hanging from the rafters of Michigan’s Crisler Center. He would come back to see that happen. Webber would feel like a Wolverine again if that happened.
But until Michigan does something like that, nothing is going to change.
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