It comes every year around this time, when basketball fans across the country gather around their TVs to cheer on their alma maters, hometown schools, or favorite players in one of the greatest athletic tournaments to ever exist. March Madness, that is truly an accurate description of college basketball this time of year, and as of late, the rest of the season as well. College hoops has become equally about off the court madness as it is about on the court. The program I would like to focus on is actually a team I usually pull for come March, and that is the University of Kansas, but this season I find myself hesitant to root for the Jayhawks, given their latest off the court drama.
Josh Jackson, a name most basketball fans will recognize given his status as a projected top five overall pick in this years NBA draft, and as the Kansas Jayhawks best player. However, if you have not been keeping up with the news, Mr. Jackson has been getting in some trouble as of late. He missed the Jayhawks upset loss versus TCU due to a minor car accident in which he did not leave his contact information. That is only the tip of the iceberg for this player and this program though, Jackson is also being pursued for a December incident in which he caused nearly $1,000 in damages to a female basketball players vehicle, after an incident at a bar. The female, McKenzie Calvert, who also plays basketball at the University of Kansas, had to miss several practices due to her involvement in the incident. Meanwhile Jackson has yet to receive any more than a scolding it appears. He did offer an “apology”, but money was the main topic of choice, not his regrettable actions.
Now, three months after the incident actually occurred, Jackson’s lawyer has reportedly offered Calvert and her family money if they would simply “let the altercation go”. Money, money, money, that seems to be on the tip of everyone’s tongue. Make it all go away and we will make you richer. I am no moral police, but does this not seem all wrong? Yes, Jackson is a college student, as am I, and I understand the mischief and extracurriculars seemingly all college students get into. However, one is to speculate, if it were you or I in this incident, the average person, would sweeping this incident under the rug be the goal, or would justice be the goal. Because nearly every story I hear about today regarding college athletics and scandal revolves around “making it all go away”. No program wants their name to be tarnished by crime and scandal, so they do what they do best, *cha ching*, they open up their wallets and throw dollar bills at you until you shut up.
Let’s talk about the Jayhawks again though, because surely this minor incident is not significant enough for any one person to protest the Jayhawks basketball program, or college athletics in general. I now shift your attention to a far bigger topic of discussion, which you probably have not heard much of anything about in recent months, only going to prove my overall point of paid ignorance. The story is this, several Kansas Jayhawk players were reportedly witnesses to a rape in their dorm. This incident occurred not long after the Josh Jackson incident. In a USA Today article on the matter it was reported that a 16 year old girl was “attacked” and “raped” in an athletic dorm at the University of Kansas. This incident is extremely disturbing, and personally gave me chills when I read about it, as do all incidents of this variety. The idea that a high school age girl was attacked by college age men though, that is a whole new level of disgusting.
The same article quoted Bill Self, Kansas Jayhawks men’s basketball coach, as saying the incident was a “major distraction” going into their matchup against top ranked Kentucky. An interesting choice of words to say the least. Nobody is accusing anybody of committing this crime, and that is certainly not what I am doing either, I am simply critiquing the approach that the University of Kansas athletic program decided to take regarding this incident. Calling it a “distraction” and that they had “gotten in front of the situation” before the matter became public, are hardly the choice of words I would go for after a young woman was raped in one of your athletic dorms. Can we expect much more though, today’s era of college athletics is built to protect its star players and programs, because they bring in far too much money. Once again, money is at the forefront, and once again it is doing its best to tarnish major college athletics.
Upon reading this you are probably thinking to yourself something along the lines of how innocent and inexperienced I must be, being so young and naive, “things have always been this way Sean” you are probably thinking. Well here is my suggestion, how about we start changing how things “have always been”. Let’s start with not giving athletes the benefit of the doubt, just because they are on a higher pedestal does not mean they are above punishment and jail time. Let’s say person A commits the same crime as person B, but person A is a star athlete while person B is not, they should both still receive the same exact punishment. Punishment should be completely objective and not based on athletic standing. And these coaches should be more focused on molding their players into respectful young men, not super star athletes who are entitled and bratty. I am in love with sports, I believe they teach comradery and teamwork, but this notion of entitlement that college athletic programs are promoting is disgraceful and is tarnishing sports from the ground up. Former players are being left in the cold when they lose their athletic ability, because they were never taught to fend for themselves, only that as long as you are a star who makes people money you will be protected.
Just think on this for a few minutes, I beg of you, the world of sports depends on you doing so. Because the less enablers we have the more accountability there will be, and with this will come more young men being molded into responsible adults. You can still enjoy this upcoming addition of March Madness, the intent of this article was not to say you shouldn’t. Simply do homework on your alma mater, or your hometown team, and look out for your favorite players to see if they pop up in any controversial articles or stories. Just be more skeptical, because if we the fans, aka the consumers, can start holding these players and programs more accountable, we will be heard, trust me.
Photo: (The Odyssey Online)