I'm writing this article in response to the segment that I watched on College Football Live that featured Rod Gilmore discussing the Terrelle Pryor scandal. Gilmore said "that in conditions like this, we are conditioned to blame the athlete and not the coach"..."we tend to be conditioned to blame the young African American male"..."we have to be careful of the image we portray."
He goes on to say that Tressel is being portrayed as the "good guy that did a bad thing"...and the "young African American male is being demonized as selfish, and not a good team player."
Really, Rod? You're going to play the "race card" in defense of bad behavior? I usually enjoy Rod Gilmore's commentary; however, this is over the top. I don't know if Mr. Gilmore was told by the producer to take this angle to make good-television or what. Either way, his argument stinks and does not serve black players at all.
So, let's break this down. Does race really play a part in players that violate NCAA rules? I say no. However, what does play a part is one's upbringing. If a child is left to his own, or not taught the value of having good morals and how to act ethically, he or she is more likely to break NCAA rules. Period.
One would think that this is the end of the discussion; however it isn't.
When I decided to write this article, I did a lot of soul-searching about this topic and read a lot of differing opinions so that I could write the article without bias. The conclusion that I came to is that black athletes are not unfairly scrutinized over white players. Furthermore, by making the distinction that they are, that invites others to make excuses for bad behavior, which erodes the fabric of sportsmanship.
So why, more times than not, do you see the black athletes in the news for NCAA violations? In my opinion, the discrepancy is caused because you have more name recognition with black players than you do with the white players.
Meaning, if you were asked to come up with the 10 best players in NCAA football, seven of them would be black. These kids have name recognition, and that makes for good headlines if they screw-up.
So that begs to question, are black players more likely to screw up than white players? No. However, kids from poor socioeconomic backgrounds are more likely to screw up than kids from middle or upper middle class backgrounds.
This is not to say that kids from poor socioeconomic backgrounds lack morals or are not taught ethics by their parents either. So why do kids from poorer backgrounds tend to screw up more often than other kids?
Take two kids equally raised with morals and good parenting. Starve one for a week, then put them both in a bakery. Which kid is most likely to steal a piece of bread? Is it the white one or the black one? No. It's the hungry one.
When you take a child out of a poor socioeconomic background and stick him in a middle class culture, he sees a different side of life for the first time. His friends have nice cars and credit cards from their parents. He has a scholarship paid dorm room and empty pockets.
If he wants $300, he has to work 40 hours a week while doing two a days and taking college classes. On top of this, he's the media darling because he's a four star recruit. He has tons of girls who want to date him and no money to take them out.
Also, guess who the sleazy recruiters will be targeting? I'll give you a hint. It's not the rich kid that no one's heard of, who has a nice car and monthly allowance from his parents.
Which one of us wouldn't be tempted to eat the bread?
So, does this excuse what Terrelle Pryor did? Hell no. Does this mean that it's unfair to scrutinize college players who have less and screw-up more. Hell no. We cannot erode values by making excuses for bad behavior.
What we can do is adjust scholarships to compensate for kids that come to school with less, thereby lowering the temptation they are faced with, but that's a whole other article.