Keep Your Politics Off My Football
By Brad Turner
What role do politics play in the world of sports? The answer: None. However looks like the South Carolina Legislative Black Caucus has forgotten this. After the news got out of the possibility that the University of South Carolina was going to lose its lone black Board of Trustee member, the Black Caucus got on the phones. And who did they call? Ghostbusters? Well they might as well have because they sure didn’t call anyone who could do more about it. They called the 2010 recruiting class for the South Carolina Carolina football team. That’s right, they called out of state TEENAGERS.
This call to arms is headed by Democratic Representative Todd Rutherford. For whatever reason, he has come to the conclusion that in order to fix a perceived problem in the legislature, he would try to make kids stop coming to college in South Carolina. Needless to say this isn’t good for anyone.
First off, Rutherford apparently doesn’t realize the potential damage he could do if these future student-athletes listen to him. They are under a contract to come to USC at this point. They have signed their letters of intent back in February. In order for them to be able to go to a different school they would have to be released by the program then sit out a year. Apparently Rutherford doesn’t care what happens to these kids, even if that means losing a year of their scholarship and football career, as long as he gets his point across.
His complaints stem from the “lack” of diversity of both the University and its board. African-Americans make up 14% of the student body at USC. This is actually the same or better than a number of schools in the Southeast including the University of North Carolina (11%), University of Virginia (8%), University of Tennessee (9%), University of Georgia (8%), University of Florida (10%), Louisiana State University (10%), University of Mississippi (14%), University of Kentucky (5%), and instate Clemson University (8%). In terms of diversity in the Southeast, USC is progressive!
Telling black students to not come to USC is counter-productive to say the least. Rutherford complains that the student body of USC does not reflect the racial diversity of the state. However, he is telling black students not to come. I don’t see how this makes things better. Instead, you would think the logical solution would be to encourage the black population in South Carolina to apply to USC and thus add the desired diversity.
Now for a slightly more pointed message I want to get across. Can he prove that the loss of the lone black board member is in any way, shape, or form a racial attack? No. He only points out that there would no longer be a black member. Leah Moody is currently the only black Trustee. She replaced Samuel Foster II when a bank fraud scandal forced him to resign on July 1, 2009. Foster was the first elected African-American to be elected on the board. Moody is now facing Alton Hyatt Jr. for the spot. House Speaker Bobby Harrell of Charleston has clearly expressed that the election is not a case of race. “What everyone should be thinking about is who’s the best person for the job, regardless of race?” That makes sense to me.
Picking someone just because of race is wrong, no matter their color. If Hyatt is not the best person for the job then he does not deserve to be on the board, simple as that. But if he is, then elect him. We need to help our schools in any way possible. If a less qualified person is placed on the board simply because of race, we are moving in the wrong direction. The black caucus should be spending their time finding candidates who are more qualified for the position rather than try to threaten the state when they don’t get their way.
The backlash from the attack on South Carolina’s football program has come hard and quick. I have to give it to Rutherford, He knows how to get peoples attention. However, the negative attention is probably not what he was looking for. Much of the talk on the sport radio networks have all been the same; this is a political problem and it does not need to be intertwined with athletics. Rutherford defended himself by saying, “Gamecock fans should not be calling and threatening black legislators. Call the Republican leadership.” Well Mr. Rutherford, it looks like you brought this on yourself. The Gamecock nation is not going to sit idly by while you try to blackmail their beloved football program and their University. Most people can plainly see that the football program cannot effect the Board of Trustees in any way. Why can’t Rutherford?
I will admit, I feel bad for Moody. She has come out and said that she does not support calling the recruits, “The race is in the General Assembly.” She is running on her own merit instead of her race. And good for her, she gets it. I’m glad she is distancing herself from this nonsense. She knows that she should be elected on what she can bring to the Board of Trustees. Rutherford should shut up for a minute and listen to her. This is her race to win, not his. If he wants to help, talk to the representatives who have a say in this election and convince them that she deserves this spot by what she can provide to the University and not because of the color of her skin.
Mr. Rutherford, it is time to stop using race as a talking point to get votes. Here is your chance to step up to the plate and back a candidate based on ability. Leave the student-athletes of the University of South Carolina alone, and if you want to make a change, talk to the people who can do it.