USC running back Reggie Bush, Auburn quarterback Cam Newton and Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor could, arguably, be called the new faces of cheating in college athletics.
Some of us have seen these as just examples of college stars who have taken the wrong turn. Orlando Sentinel columnist Shannon J. Owens, however, believes we have ignored the black elephant in the room.
She could be right.
It does seem that the greatest common denominator in this college athletics cheating situation is that the athletes who get caught for accepting impermissible gifts and benefits are disproportionately Black, while the benefactors are almost always rich white men. The latest example of this is at Miami, where imprisoned rogue booster Nevin Shapiro is coming clean about eight years of violating NCAA rules by providing Hurricanes student athletes with money, gifts, prostitutes and many other impermissible benefits. The accused recipients were and are overwhelmingly Black athletes.
So what gives?
Greed does often play a factor. But the real concern is why do boosters and agents alike seem to prey on Black athletes more so than white athletes? What we might find is that it really is less to do about race and more to do with socio-economic status.
Black athletes who come from middle class and above backgrounds are far less likely to be approached by rogue boosters and agents because those kids aren’t in desperate situations. Unfortunately, athletes who are in college with hopes of pulling their families out of bad economic situations are easy targets.
The Sentinel piece also points out that there is no way to really know if Black athletes are prone to break rules more than their white counterparts, as the data collected depends on violators getting caught. It’s a safe assumption that most rules breakers don’t ever get caught.
Contact Terrance Harris at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @Terranceharris.
(Photo: AP Photo/J Pat Carter)