Even as I don’t agree with everything contained in the statement released by the Oklahoma football players about the by now infamous racist chant of members of a university fraternity (expelling the frat boys for speech is a First Amendment violation, in my view), I can’t help but be impressed by the amount of thought that went into the student-athletes expressing their sentiments.
Still, I can’t help but wonder about something they’ve said.
…We have not practiced this week, and will not be practicing today as we will demonstrate silently on Owen Field during our normal practice time. We will not forget about this during spring break, and upon our return to the practice field on Monday, March 23, we will continue to address this issue in our media opportunities and by wearing black during our practices. We cannot express how grateful we are to Coach Stoops and the coaching staff for supporting each and every action we have taken, even when these actions may have seemed extreme. We simply cannot wait to get back on the practice field in our pursuit of a national championship, but even a national championship is not more important than using our platform as student athletes to make our university and our nation a better place…
Again, the sentiment is admirable and Coach Stoops deserves plenty of credit for giving his players the opportunity to explain themselves, but I can’t help but compare this situation with the one surrounding Northwestern’s unionization vote. More particularly, about how that sat with Pat Fitzgerald, the coach:
“I don’t think any team dealt with a bigger distraction than we did a year ago. We dealt with it fine, but I think it hurt our team’s performance on the field. Why do I feel that way? It’s a huge allocation of time. We only have so many hours to be with the guys, and we were taking the time to educate them on situations that had nothing to do with football. For me, that’s the biggest tragedy for those seniors. Tragedy is a hard word, but that group will never get that time back. I look at a guy like Trevor who had a lot put on his shoulders. He and I haven’t spoken about it, but I’m assuming his tank was on empty by the time he got to the season.”
Somehow, I’m guessing that if anybody’s referring to what’s happened at Oklahoma as tragedy, it’s not being directed at the football players, even though these are both “situations that had nothing to do with football“. But if your standard is what Fitzgerald says it is in evaluating the activity, how are the two situations any different, particularly if you’re part of the “You can’t have the animals running the zoo in a college education” crowd? Either way, preparation time is being taken away from the seniors, time they’ll never get back.
Right? Or could it have been about something other than allocating time?
Like I said, I’m just wonderin’.