I consider myself to be an avid sports fan. I think it’s the pride that comes with watching a team represent their school or brand name, and knowing the community of fans who all have their own incentives to support a particular team.
Often times, at the collegiate level, these student-athletes are the faces of our universities. I would say that the majority of people recognize the University of Alabama for being a football powerhouse and see schools like Duke University and Xavier University as basketball schools.
Why, you may ask? It’s because sports are not only athletic events but also marketing and communication. That’s where the logos, colors, conferences, schedules and recruiting classes come into play. When a school is known for something, it attracts a bigger interest pool and supportive fan base.
Schools like the University of Michigan and the University of Georgia have thousands of supporters who have no affiliation with the school whatsoever but support them in sports because something about their gameplay attracts them to the fanbase.
When these athletes are constantly watched and travel across the United States and even internationally, I think a lot of them don’t realize the impact and influence they possess. They wear their school’s colors and names and are representing their school.
And when scandals or issues arise involving these athletes, people may not necessarily know the names of the athletes involved or the exact transpiration, but they know the school name and the basic charge.
Recently after an annual basketball game in Shanghai, China, three players on the University of California, Los Angeles’ basketball team were detained for accusations of stealing and ended up walking away free. It’s things like this that make me frustrated with our glorification of sports stars in our nation, and this isn’t the first time a case like this has come up abroad.
In 2016, four Olympic swimmers were in trouble with Brazilian law enforcement after stealing from a gas station in Rio de Janeiro. The four swimmers, who all held medals for the United States, did not receive a punishment, but rather just stated formal apologies, even after lying about the actual content of the event.
We have a problem with prioritizing sports over morality, going leaps and bounds over the line to protect these representatives of said teams.
According to an article from The News&Observer, the basketball team for the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill had a huge scandal of grade tampering by using a “shadow curriculum that scores of UNC athletes relied on to help them stay eligible to play” for over eighteen years, despite a large portion of these athletes technically being academically ineligible to play at the collegiate level.
The University of Miami helped student-athletes forage documents to grant over two-hundred thousand dollars worth of Pell grant money, which is used to provide aid to students to pay for college.
Most of these athletes never see any kind of serious consequences. The universities they represent or the teams they compete for go above and beyond to cover or protect these students because of their athletic abilities and how they are assets to whatever team they are on.
And, of course, it’s frustrating seeing people commit wrongdoings, yet receiving minimal consequences, as if they’re immune to imperfection and fail to see their mistakes or acknowledge the line between what is morally right versus wrong.
So, whatever happened to the UCLA basketball players who were charged? They were released with no consequences last Tuesday. They are still able to play in every game, still able to wear their school name with so-called pride.
I think it's so wrong how they are able to just walk away free and have no punishment. They did something wrong, in another country, while representing their school. They were in China to play in a sporting event, not to be on spring break.
We need to stop enabling people to get away with moral wrongdoings, despite their prominence, importance or status.