As I sit here today basking in the freedom of living in the United States of America and celebrating Martin Luther King Day, I had some random thoughts (as I often do) run through my mind. These thoughts made me ask the inevitable question: “what if?”
The obvious first question I asked was: “What if there was no Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.?” I think this question is particularly poignant given the time and the rise of civil rights leaders. Medgar Evers was assassinated on his driveway in June of 1963 and Malcolm was assassinated in February of 1965 presumably by The Nation. At that time, King stood alone in his quest for equality using a non-violent approach.
I couldn’t help but ask myself: “If there was no Dr. King would I be able to enjoy the freedoms I enjoy today as an African-American? Would someone else have risen to the forefront to open American’s eyes to the blatant inequalities running rampant in society?"
Wait…wait… don’t click off just yet… this isn’t a Civil Rights history lesson – but rather a collection of thoughts that will I’ll bring to conclusion a little later…
The aforementioned thoughts gave way to my thinking about how much sport has changed and how many African American student-athletes forgo their collegiate experience and completing their educations for the money and fame of the professional ranks.
Hmmmmm…. Let’s see.
There are 102 underclassmen leaving for the NFL this season (a new record number). Given the known demographic that 67% of all NFL players are African-American it would be safe to assume that at least that percentage number of student-athletes leaving early for the NFL are also African-American.
Let’s be clear here… I’m not suggesting that student-athletes should risk losing millions of dollars as a professional in order to stay in school… what I am suggesting is that maybe there should be a change to the letters of intent they sign out of high school.
Enter my second question: “What if the NCAA changed the national letters of intent? What if all student-athletes were required to reimburse the institutions that paid for them to attend and play sports?”
Check this out…
Let’s say a player left early for the NFL, NBA, MLB or NHL. If there was a clause in the national letter of intent which stated that if a player left early he would be required to:
1. Reimburse the college or university for half of the financial aid and benefits he received during his time there
2. Return to the college of university previously attended and pay for his full tuition and books in an effort to insure he completes his education
would we have as many student-athletes leaving early for the professional ranks?
Interesting concept isn’t it?
Again, this isn’t a quest to deter student-athletes from seizing opportunities presented to them, but rather adding a level of conscience responsibility to their thought process. I love sport…. especially high school sport, but once the “leap” is made to the next level there seems to be a fundamental disconnect to the ultimate reason student-athletes are called STUDENT-ATHLETES not ATHLETE-STUDENTS.
Anyway, I just thought I would share some of my random thoughts with you today… let me know what you think. I would be interested to hear your perspective.
Happy MLK Day!!
Sport is Life.