Is it just me? Or has anyone else noticed that there are certain people in
this world who appear to get away with outlandish, illegal and certainly
immoral actions for which I would be taken to task, if not to jail for doing?
No, I'm not talking about Slick Willie. Everyone in America knows what he is,
and too many of them even voted for him despite his reputation. I'm tired of
watching some star athlete commit an illegal or immoral act and then escape
any penalty. Since our culture not only supports these athletic performers
with exorbitant salaries, but also gives them outlandish payments for running
through airports, wearing special sneakers or using long distance services,
it would seem that a certain responsibility for moral and ethical leadership
should follow. But unfortunately, very few athletes appear to have been on
the receiving end of moral or ethical education during their formative years.
It all crystallized when I read a Washington Post article over the weekend
titled, "Dissecting Columbine's Cult of the Athlete."
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I, like most Americans, believe that the actions of Eric Harris and Dylan
Klebold can not be justified under any circumstance. However, the examination
of the Columbine High School "culture of the athlete" by school
administrators, parents and teachers has brought certain practices to light.
According to the Post there was "a school wide indulgence of certain jocks --
their criminal convictions, physical abuse, sexual and racial bullying. ..."
Allegations are made by parents and students that certain athletes were never
reprimanded for physical abuse against other students. Was Columbine High
School different from other high schools and colleges across this country?
Unfortunately, the answer is no.
The Miami Herald, on same day as the Washington Post article, ran a story
of grade inflation for athletes with a feature article entitled "Upgraded
Report Cards." At three
Miami-Dade High Schools at least four star athletes have been the recipients
of grade "adjustments" in order to keep them eligible for playing on their
school football team. According to one school official who requested
anonymity, "I would say perhaps 50 percent of our schools have allowed grade
overrides to be done without the principal's knowledge. And perhaps 50
percent of that number involve overrides that enable athletes to maintain
Grade adjustment or inflation is not just limited to high schools. Last
April players on the University of Minnesota basketball team seemed to be
getting better grades than they deserved. According to the Saint Paul Pioneer
Press, Elayne Donahue, the former head of the school's academic counseling
unit, alleged that "faculty members awarded players final grades before their
course work was completed and that grades sometimes were changed years after
players enrolled in courses." Grade changes, however, are not the only
methods used to keep star athletes on the field. According to a friend of
mine, who is knowledgeable about the athletic program at a major eastern
university, it is common practice for athletes to be given 6-8 painkillers
before going out to "play." After all, at this school the income from the
men's basketball is the cash cow that funds every other athletic program. The
athletic department doesn't really consider their athletes as students, but
as necessary cogs in the university money machine.
Watching big name athletes flaunt their outrageous actions has become a
regular occurrence. Mike Tyson's career is a good example. Mr. Tyson may be a
great fighter, but he is also a convicted rapist. He was given a six-year
prison sentence, but served only three before being released on parole. When
he returned to the ring, he proceeded to bite off a chunk of Evander
Holyfield's ear during their championship fight.
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For that atrocity he was suspended from boxing for approximately 18
months, before getting his boxing license back. During his suspension he
attacked two other motorists after a minor traffic fender bender. God only
knows what may have happened if Mike's bodyguards had not restrained him. The
term "road rage" could have been coined for Tyson. For that altercation he
just spent three and a half months in a Maryland jail, but now is being
"transferred" to the Arizona Department of Corrections so he can train in
Arizona for his next heavyweight fight in August.
But it is not only the star athletes, schoolteachers, or coaches who break
or twist laws and get away with it. It goes to the highest levels of
international sport, including the International Olympic Committee and the
members of its Board.
At the beginning of June the task force assigned to examine reforms for
the International Olympic Committee's method of choosing Olympic venues met
in Switzerland. At that meeting several Americans members including former
Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and Peter Uberroth, chief organizer for
the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games, took the IOC to task for the bribery
scandal involving the Salt Lake City. According to SkiNet News Desk
Uberroth blamed the
IOC for the problems and said, "The culture that caused the problems started
in 1956 and can be easily be disposed of by this body and current leadership
of the IOC."
Yet, very few members of the IOC appear to be listening. As several U.S.
government agencies began investigations of The Salt Lake Organizing
Committee (SLOC), the IOC Board appears to be divided on the fate of
Australian Phil Coles and Korean Un Yong Kim, who already had been issued
serious warnings at the March IOC meeting. Both have been accused of
corruption in the granting of venues to Salt Lake City and Sydney, Australia.
Mr. Coles, who over the past weekend, reluctantly agreed to resign from the
Sydney Organizing Committee, will still be allowed to remain on the IOC
Board. Mr. Kim, whose son and daughter appear to have benefited greatly from
their father's status as an IOC executive committee member, still remains on
the IOC Board.
The U.S. Department of Justice is trying to determine whether the payment
of $20,000 by the SLOC to a Utah corporation that employed Kim's son, John,
broke any U. S. laws. According to the Salt Lake Tribune
Tom Welch, the head
of the Salt Lake City Olympic bid committee, affirmed that John Kim was hired
to help the bid committee make inroads with IOC members and had been paid by
that committee. At the same time the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms
(BATF) is investigating the case of several Browning guns that were given as
gifts to IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch. Although that gift had been
reported last January when the Salt Lake City scandal first made national
news, BATF has just now acknowledged its investigation. At that time
Samaranch said he accepted the gifts because he did not want to insult the
SLOC and admitted, "I took the gun to Switzerland." As most American gun
owners are aware, it is illegal to export firearms unless the seller is a
licensed dealer with the appropriate government permit. Although an engraved
Browning pistol sits on display in the IOC museum in Lausanne, Switzerland,
Shelley Thomas, the SLOC spokesperson, was quoted as saying she has "no clue"
how the Browning guns were delivered.
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We can all predict the outcome. The paperwork will be done to satisfy
American gun laws and Juan Antonio's gifts will remain in Lausanne,
Switzerland. Yet, it's important to acknowledge that the privileged whether
through political power, athletic achievement, or an embarrassment of riches
will always be able to flaunt rules, regulations and even laws with impunity.
They seem to be above the law, while the rest of us are forced to live with
more and more restrictions concocted in the halls of Congress.