We here at KSR have a pretty special relationship with the folks over at the New York Times. Between Pete Thamel and easily circumvented paywalls, there’s a lot to love at the biggest paper in the country. However, this article by William Rhoden has left me pretty confused. It’s titled ‘Begrudging the Kentucky Wildcats’ Success and Opportunities’. Cool. Been there done that, Bill. It starts just as the other five thousand stories like it written in the past week have started: won the championship, NBA exodus, demise of college basketball, etc. He then touches upon how other sports figures may spend only a short amount of time in school before turning pro and aren’t subjected to nearly the same microscope. I’m picking up what Bill is putting down, for the most part, until he drops this bomb:
So why has the prospect of five U.K. young players turning pro unsettled so many people?
If the core of the Kentucky team had been made up of white players with phenomenal athleticism and acumen at every position – operating in the context of a largely black sport – we would not be hearing the complaining. Their success would not be seen as a debasement. The team would be celebrated and feted – as Butler was, as Gonzaga used to be.
This angle is one that has some merit because all the players are black, but Bill really kind of snuck this in. He goes on to interview Tom Izzo about the issue:
The perception is that these five black players are not serious students and don’t belong at the university. If they were white, there would be more acceptance that they belong at the university.
“It’s sad for me to say, but it’s probably the truth,” Izzo said. Perception or not, the reality is that the sports industry has done its part preparing young men and women for their careers as professional athletes. Only a small percentage will succeed, but only a fraction succeed at the highest level in any profession.
Bill asserts that the one-and-done loop hole allows poor, black people without the same educational opportunities as white people to achieve their dreams of wealth and success. I’m not going to say he’s incorrect but he’s really throwing a blanket generalization over both black and white people when he writes this article. My real issue with this piece is that he’s taking something great, like our national championship, and using it as a vehicle to hop up on the pulpit. Take a breath, Bill. Sometimes basketball isn’t just black and white.