There used to be a time when amateurism was as meaningful as being a virgin. There was pride as a bride, walking down the aisle towards her awaiting husband-to-be in her all-white dress signifying her chastity. But sometime during the passing of years, the notion of purity came crashing down when the ring bearer turns out to be the bride's son.
And the world kept spinning. We realize that virginity is an idea we try to maintain for the sake of the children (I’ll pass on getting on the bible thumpers who’ll say otherwise) but know full well trying to maintain such perception is as out-of-date as an 8-Track. And I wish the sports world in large will follow suit when it comes to the antiquated idea of amateurism.
Every year something occurs within sports that reminds us of the farce that is amateurism. Here’s the latest example — Maori Davenport vs. the Alabama High School Athletic Association.
The background: Davenport, the 15th ranked girls basketball player in the class of 2019 according to HoopGurlz, represented this country playing for USA Basketball over the summer in Mexico City. For her time, USA Basketball sent her a check for $857.20. The problem is that once the check landed in Davenport’s mailbox, it became an amateurism violation according to the bylaws of the AHSAA. Never mind that Davenport sent the check back to USA Basketball or that USA Basketball sent the check kind of unintentionally, the AHSAA ruled Davenport ineligible to play this her senior season for Charles Henderson High School.
So now Davenport is in a fight to get reinstated. At the time of this writing, a report by al.com states that Davenport and her parents were heading to the Alabama Legislature.
I’m going to approach this from three angles.
The first is the notion that organizations (from Little League up to the NCAA) continue to try to sell America that amateur sports still exist. I write Little League because do you seriously believe that the Little League World Series would still be on TV if it wasn’t making money for ESPN? Williamsport, the site of the LLWS, I’m sure is making bank with the TV networks, teams, attendees. So someone is getting paid and it sho ‘nuff isn’t the kids out there on the field.
And let’s not even discuss the NCAA where Dabo Swinney just made, according to reports, $875,000 for what his players did on the field this season. Those same players that went through 15 games of repeated car crashes to their bodies get nothing but a Jostens ring.
So sure, it’s cute to have bylaws in high school athletic associations across the country banning their athletes from obtaining monetary compensation for a summer job that just so happen to be the sport they play but telling the breadwinner of one of your revenue generating sports that she can’t play is counterproductive.
Secondly, I think what USA Basketball did was honorable in giving all of the players on the team a check. Instead of using the summer to obtain a part-time job, they were working with USA Basketball as athletes. It was akin to a paid internship. Now, only if the NCAA realize that their athletes are full-time employees, but, I digress.
Lastly, I have yet to see that the $857.20 has affected Davenport’s status as a Rutgers signee. So, if I was in her position, I would care less. I’ve already signed my letter of intent to play DI ball, what’s another season of HS basketball going to do? Absolutely nothing. Some principled stances aren’t worth the trouble. Fighting a HS athletic association for eight weeks of basketball is one of them.
Agree, disagree or have an idea that you would like for me to tackle next? I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter: @ChrisHarris_DLJ