It’s a busy day, so will need to keep this brief, but a few interesting stories to put a pin in for now:
1) UAB has shut down its football program, the first school in what is now called the Football Bowl Subdivision to do so in almost two decades. We don’t know, of course, how many other non power-5 schools will do so in the years to come, as the costs of fielding a team continue to escalate and the difficulty of keeping up with the 65 or so schools in the five big-money leagues only grows. For now, the rhetoric coming from schools like Northern Illinois is that they will continue to press on. Unionization, perhaps growing legal and medical liability and other factors may make some of these schools rue that commitment.
2) The Daily Tar Heel has continued its exceptional work. Yesterday, Sam Schaefer penned a thoughtful, incisive commentary on being an avid, but now-conflicted sports fan at UNC, including these lines:
We seem to be heading into basketball season ready to … pass the scandal off as the actions of a few individuals.
We are all responsible if we let this happen. But the greatest responsibility for action should fall on the University’s administration, which has unfortunately helped to promote a narrative of events that de-emphasizes their national context, proposed instituting only minor reforms, disproportionately blamed the former department of African and Afro-American Studies and has failed to apologize for bullying Willingham.
I recognize that administrators are in a tough spot. These issues present the possibility of hard choices, and they are dealing with pressures from outside institutions that are difficult to comprehend. But there are some important ways that they have not lived up to their responsibility of upholding this University’s mission to be an honorable institution.
I cannot totally reject the central cultural role athletics play at our University — they have been an essential part of my identity for my entire life — nor can I dishonor the admirable and backbreaking work our athletes perform for this community. But I can’t watch UNC basketball with a totally clear conscience anymore.
It’s a challenging time at UNC, but the school newspaper is serving its community admirably.
3) Mike Ditka said yesterday that he was “embarrassed” for the five St. Louis Rams players who used the hands-up, don’t shoot gesture before Sunday’s game. He believes the gesture is “crap” and is also certain that Mike Brown did not have his hands up when he was shot, even though he admits he doesn’t know what happened. Ditka previously described as “asinine” and appallingly “stupid” those who have protested the name of the Washington football team.
If it makes Ditka feel any better, I am embarrassed for him almost every time he opens his mouth.
4) Two especially good commentaries on the decision yesterday by a New York Grand Jury not to indict the police officer at whose hands Eric Garner died in July – a) Eugene Robinson in the Washington Post and b) and Vince Warren, Executive Director of the Center for Constitutional Rights (who happens to be a friend from childhood). Warren argues that this spate of police killings cannot be laid at the feet of “mutual mistrust” between the police and communities of color, as the President and others have said. Instead, the culprit is pervasive, institutionalized racism.
We’re going to get nowhere until we acknowledge that racism is deep and deadly even when it isn’t manifest in hood-wearing and lynching.