19 February 2014

NCAA: Civil Rights or Civil Unright?

                I’ve said for years that I felt the NCAA exploits college athletes and does very little in return for their services.  College athletes are expected to be at every practice, show up to every class they are enrolled in, make good grades, be involved in their school community to a certain degree, make certain community appearances, perform on their respective “playing field”, and above all else, do all of this free of charge.  Depending on who you ask, they will tell you, it’s a fair trade off for a FREE education.  Others will tell you that the NCAA has an obligation to compensate the student athletes for their services.  Regardless of how you feel about their compensation, or lack of, it’s safe to say, we can all make the connection that the athletes are “working” to put themselves through college- whether on scholarship, work-study, or loans.

                If the student athlete is working to put themselves through college, should they not be entitled to the same standards as the rest of America when it comes to working environments?  Mind you, I’m not talking about financial compensation; I’m talking about “workplace behavior,” and the conditions that go on in the workplace of their campus.  Student athletes are subjected to workplace harassment on an almost daily reoccurring basis.  Let me explain.

                Workplace Harassment is a Form of Discrimination: Further defined as, “Unlawful harassment is a form of discrimination that violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and other federal authority.”  It goes on to say, “Workplace bullying occurs when an employee experiences a persistent pattern of mistreatment from others in the workplace that causes harm.  Workplace bullying can include such tactics as verbal, nonverbal, psychological, physical abuse and humiliation. This type of aggression is particularly difficult because, unlike the typical forms of school bullying, workplace bullies often operate within the established rules and policies of their organization and their society. Bullying in the workplace is in the majority of cases reported as having been perpetrated by someone in authority over the target. However, bullies can also be peers, and on occasion can be subordinates.  Bullying can be covert or overt. It may be missed by superiors or known by many throughout the organization. Negative effects are not limited to the targeted individuals, and may lead to a decline in employee morale and a change in company culture.”

                I know, you’re thinking, “Where is he going with this?”  I’ll tell you.  I’m talking about when an athlete “suits up” for their respective team and makes their way on to their respective playing fields.  Whether it is football, baseball, basketball, golf, or any other of the many collegiate sports around the nation.  These student athletes represent their schools as ambassadors, as chairmen, and as stewards of the game.  However, if you take a look at what they provide to their schools and the NCAA, they are essentially employees for their sports, schools, and the NCAA.  The NCAA will say they are not; they are not entitled to salaries, unions, or other benefits that come with being an employee in corporate America. 

                Even as a member of the Armed Forces of America, U.S. Service members are not entitled to unions, but they are entitled to equal opportunity, equal treatment, and equality in their respective workplaces.  I’d argue that there’s no job in America more grueling, more demanding, or more challenging than serving a deployment in the military.  Whether it’s a tent in the jungle, a bunk in the desert, or a rack on a ship the conditions are never going to be as good as being home.  Still, even with the toughest working conditions you can imagine, and sometimes conditions that come under fire from the enemy, U.S. Service members have rules against workplace harassment.  If I drove up to a base today, began yelling and calling the sentry watchstander names, I’d be quickly asked to leave, if not detained. 

                Now, change that to a college football game.  College basketball game.  Twenty-five thousand to one-hundred thousand screaming fans, some cheering their team on to victory, some rooting for the other team to lose.  Most of the time, even in the sporting chaos that is athletics, it’s manageable and acceptable, but when does it cross the line and become workplace harassment?  If Johnny Manziel is walking on to the field at Texas A&M and a random, non season-ticket holding fan yells, “You suck Manziel” does that cross the line?  I think no, it doesn’t.  Now, what if the fan was a 5 year season ticket holder for Alabama, a fan who follows Alabama to every single game they play, and at every single game spends the entire game verbally assaulting the opposing team.  What if this fan always gets tickets right behind the opposing teams sideline so he can scream at them?  You might say, “It’s a football game, it’s the fan’s right.”  You would be wrong.

NCAA Fan Code of Conduct (FCOC) clearly state:
 Ø The following violations should be identified as actions that may result in sanctions:
 Ø  Behavior that is reckless, dangerous, disruptive, or illegal in nature.
 Ø  Demonstrating signs of impairment from alcohol or other substances.
 Ø  Foul or abusive language or obscene gestures.
 Ø  Interference with the progress of the game (including entering the field of play or throwing objects onto the field).
 Ø  Failing to follow instructions of stadium personnel or law enforcement officers.
 Ø  Verbal or physical harassment of the opposing team’s players or fans, field officials, or stadium personnel.

                The NCAA clearly states that no opposing fan can verbally or physically harass the opposing team’s players; yet, the NCAA rarely does anything about it.  If ever.  Fans will get ejected from games if they fight, sure, of they throw things on the playing field, but when’s the last time anyone recalls seeing a fan removed for yelling at the opposing team?

                Now, take a look at the case of Oklahoma State guard Marcus Smart.  On the road in Lubbock, TX against the Red Raiders of Texas Tech and the coaching staff has to warn the team before the game of a fan.  A FAN!  A fan that has for years verbally assaults and harassed opposing teams and their players so much so, that teams and coaching staffs have to warn their players of him.  That is not a casual fan cheering on their team, that IS WORKPLACE HARASSMENT.  The NCAA and Texas Tech both had an obligation to student athletes to ensure they were provided an environment that was free of this type of behavior, and they failed.  They failed their fans, their boosters, their supporters, and they failed Marcus Smart.  Making a legitimate basketball play, Marcus Smart’s momentum carried him in to the crowd behind the goal where he was subjected to this fan.  I can’t justify or support his reaction to the fan, but he should have never been subjected to it anyways.  Texas Tech should have taken the initiative years ago to control the fan and require him to watch the game in a manner that abides by the FCOC. 

                I think the NCAA and Texas Tech both owe Marcus Smart an apology for failing to ensure he, and any other opposing players, an environment free from this type of behavior.  Additionally, I think Texas Tech has an obligation to address this fan.  I’m aware the fan has voluntarily given up the remainder of this season, but it doesn’t alleviate Texas Tech from their obligations. 

                Texas Tech and the NCAA, let’s see you step up.  I want to see the NCAA protect their student athletes as they claim to be doing already.

12 February 2014

Hail To The ********

Hail To The ********

I want to start by saying, I am not, nor have I ever been a Washington Redskins fan.  In fact, I often find myself cheering against them.  It’s not because I have a grudge, not because they beat my team in the past, but because I just don’t genuinely don’t like them.  All that said, one of my favorite cities in America is the Capitol, Washington, D.C.  The Nation’s capital.  The history.  The stories.  The heritage.  The place where people have fought for civil rights, equality, and good ole American rights.  It’s different now though, the capital is now a place where people go to bully other people, pick fights, and impose their beliefs on others.
                Having lived in the Capital Beltway area, I got tired of hearing “Hail To The Redskins” during football season.  Not because I was offended, but because everywhere I turned, people were either Redskins fans or Ravens fans.  Growing up, I’ve never once heard anyone say the Washington Redskins team name and thought of it as a derogatory name.  The picture on the mascot depicts a strong Native American, his hair pulled back, feathers hanging from his hair, and his hair tied at the end.  Instead, I saw what I pictured as a child, the image of what Native Americans looked like when we settled this great nation and forced them out of their homes and off their land.  I always thought the name “Washington Redskins” was very symbolic- the strongest capital in the world with the name of the first residents of her land- what great way to pay tribute to original owners of this land.  I was impressed. 

On the other side, you look at team names like New England Patriots.  The use the name “Patriot” in conjunction with a Revolutionary War soldier.  Their reach is to link patriotism with a soldier who was fighting to secede from their host nation.  An act, defined in 1351 by the British, known as ‘Treason.’  Yet, here we are, hoisting this logo up on a team and accepting it.  What about the Tampa Bay Buccaneers?  The logo of a pirate.  Surely given the number of pirate attacks the United States has had to fight off near Africa we couldn't possibly condone such a team name could we?  What positive message does a pirate logo send to society?
                Actually, that’s exactly what we do.  Our society has grown to accept the things that we should not, and reject the things we should embrace.  We claim it’s for “political correctness” and chastise anyone who stands in the way.  We no longer refer to people with mental handicaps as being handicapped, but instead we use the term “Intellectually disabled,” or instead of saying fireman, we say “fire fighter” because someone would come unglued if you said fireman and there was a woman on the force.  The first time I can remember in my life hearing political correctness was when no longer referred to Native Americans as “Indians” but instead we began calling them Native Americans.  In today’s society Native American is so common most never think twice about the original word of Indian anymore.  This drive for watering down our history with so-called political correctness has been carried over to Congress getting involved in any matter they can.      

               United States Senator Maria Cantwell  (D-WASH) is now leading the charge against the Washington Redskins and their “offensive” name.  She claims “The N.F.L. can no longer ignore this and perpetuate the use of this name as anything but what it is: a racial slur.”  This same Senator though is Chairwoman for a committee called “Committee on Indian Affairs” which in its name uses racial or politically incorrect terms by choosing to use the term “Indian.”  How can you criticize another group or organization for their choice in names when you in fact Chair a group that does essentially the same thing? 

                I believe that with our nation struggling financially, people hurting for jobs, and our national debt the topic of many conversations that time, and money, could be better spent focusing our government on more pressing topics.  Why do I, or any of us for that matter, pay taxes for our elected officials to go off chasing a professional sports team over their name?  What does the name “Washington Redskins” have to do with our nation, our national security, or protection of our country?  Congress has better things to do in my opinion.  But, for those who think otherwise, let’s discuss Congress and their powers:
Among the powers specifically given to Congress in Article I Section 8, are the following:
  • To lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States; but all duties, imposts and excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;
  • To borrow money on the credit of the United States;
  • To regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several states, and with the Indian tribes;
  • To establish a uniform rule of naturalization, and uniform laws on the subject of bankruptcies throughout the United States;
  • To coin money, regulate the value thereof, and of foreign coin, and fix the standard of weights and measures;
  • To provide for the punishment of counterfeiting the securities and current coin of the United States;
  • To establish post offices and post roads;
  • To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries;
  • To constitute tribunals inferior to the Supreme Court;
  • To define and punish piracies and felonies committed on the high seas, and offenses against the law of nations;
  • To declare war, grant letters of marque and reprisal, and make rules concerning captures on land and water;
  • To raise and support armies, but no appropriation of money to that use shall be for a longer term than two years;
  • To provide and maintain a navy;
  • To make rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces;
  • To provide for calling forth the militia to execute the laws of the union, suppress insurrections and repel invasions;
  • To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the militia, and for governing such part of them as may be employed in the service of the United States, reserving to the states respectively, the appointment of the officers, and the authority of training the militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;
  • To exercise exclusive legislation in all cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten miles (16 km) square) as may, by cession of particular states, and the acceptance of Congress, become the seat of the government of the United States, and to exercise like authority over all places purchased by the consent of the legislature of the state in which the same shall be, for the erection of forts, magazines, arsenals, dockyards, and other needful buildings.
One of many congressional powers is to "define and punish piracies on the high seas".
Other congressional powers have been granted, or confirmed, by constitutional amendments. The Thirteenth (1865), Fourteenth (1868), and Fifteenth Amendments (1870) gave Congress authority to enact legislation to enforce rights of African Americans, including voting rights, due process, and equal protection under the law.Generally militia forces are controlled by state governments, not Congress.

                I fail to see a connection to the Washington Redskins, Congress, and any of the above powers that Congress has.  I would much rather see my tax paying dollars going to something more beneficial like improving the quality of our nation, Veterans Hospitals, or maybe fewer congressional breaks.  If congress had to work like the rest of society, maybe they wouldn't get bored and need to chase professional sports teams over their choice of a name, a name, that frankly is no more offensive than the committee that is chasing it.