Worldwide Leader in Televised Competition Terrified of Political Competition

The powers that be at ESPN have removed employee Andy Katz from the new Sirius XM show entitled “The Arena.” As a result, the show has been discontinued after just one episode. The premise of The Arena was to examine the intersection between sports and politics. Sure seems like a promising theme, right?

So why was ESPN so intent on snuffing out a program so early in its existence? The answer unsurprisingly has to do with the content of The Arena’s first episode, when the first (and now only) guest was former Florida governor and current presidential candidate Jeb Bush. The topic discussed (or at least one of them) was the controversy surrounding the Washington Redskins’ nickname. When Bush was asked about the possibility of the name being changed, he said:

“I don’t think [the team] should change it. But again, I don’t think politicians ought to have any say in that to be honest with you. I don’t find it offensive. Native American tribes generally don’t find it offensive. We had a similar kind of flap with FSU if you recall, the Seminoles, and the Seminole tribe itself kind of came to the defense of the university and it subsided. It’s a sport for crying out loud.”

Whether you agree with Bush or not on this issue is not relevant. The point is that many sports fans and individuals around the country agree with him about the lack of offensiveness of the Redskin’s name. So it’s not exactly as if he is expressing some kind of “fringe” opinion which would scare a mainstream media outlet. He also displayed his opinion in a respectful manner which did not insult or demean any of the parties involved.

Apparently this exchange was too much to bear for the higher-ups at ESPN. According to SI.com (Sports Illustrated), “Katz was pulled off the show in an effort to minimize Presidential candidate appearances on platforms connected to ESPN, and the sensitivity of such political identification.”

A few questions persist after hearing that explanation. First of all, if ESPN was going to enforce a “no presidential candidates” rule, shouldn’t they have told Katz and the others involved in making the show? If they had, wouldn’t those involved in producing the show have stayed away from Bush and all of the other presidential candidates and selected another guest? And if ESPN wants to prevent giving presidential candidates a platform on The Arena, can’t it simply enforce that rule from now on without doing away with the show completely?

The irony here is that ESPN appears to be so scared by political controversy and opposing political viewpoints while simultaneously embracing rivalry and debate in the sports world. Rivalries are great for sports, great for ratings and thus, great for ESPN. They (and the rest of the sports media) constantly play up grudge matches, controversies and the players/fan bases behind them. The network has also created shows which feature talking heads arguing with and often yelling at one another in order to win a sports dispute. Of course, there is nothing at all wrong with this.

But if ESPN has learned to promote and profit off of this kind of environment in athletics, why can’t they embrace the same philosophy in politics? The Arena was supposed to be a non-partisan show. So they could have gotten some other politician who disagrees with Bush about the Redskins’ name in order to balance things out. Especially after DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz responded to Bush’s claim by saying that his support of the name was:

“extremely insulting to Native American people. The team’s name is a racial slur that perpetuates negative stereotypes of Native American people and reduces proud cultures to an insulting caricature.”

But rather than having Wasserman Schultz or another like-minded politician come on and rebut Bush, ESPN would rather just cancel the show altogether. Given the PC nature of the sports media in general, the abrupt end of a show like this is unfortunately not surprising. Perhaps in the future ESPN (and other sports outlets) will realize the benefits of embracing political competition as much as athletic competition and shows like The Arena can truly flourish.

Walker’s Stadium Deal Highlighted Inconsistency of Failed Campaign

Scott Walker has now suspended his campaign for the 2016 presidency. The Wisconsin Governor saw his candidacy go from being a true contender for the nomination to having almost no support at all among likely voters. Before dropping out of the race, his campaign canceled trips to Michigan and California in order to focus more on early primary states. Many said this was a sign that Walker’s presidential bid is officially in panic mode. They were not wrong.

Like anyone running for public office that experienced plummeting popularity, there were certainly some things that the Walker campaign could have done better. His two debate performances were mostly forgettable and he struggled to articulate a number of positions on key issues. But for those who paid attention to Walker’s record as governor, a big problem was his inconsistency on the very core positions that were supposed to help his cause. The most notable of these may be the plan he unveiled to build a new stadium for the Milwaukee Bucks in order to keep them from leaving town.

Walker’s administration has put forward a proposal to spend $250 million dollars (with interest) of taxpayer money toward building a new arena in Milwaukee. The governor defended the plan by making the bogus claim that “Our return on investment is three to one.” This claim is widely debunked by recent economic data. Projected gains made by subsidized stadiums are almost always overstated. This is because of what economists sometimes call “the seen vs. the unseen.” Economic activity taking place at a venue like a stadium (buying tickets, paying for parking, concessions, etc.) can always be seen. But what can’t be seen are the activities at other places of business that are reduced by those wishing to avoid the excessive traffic and crowds that come with those games at the stadium.

This expensive and ill-advised deal is especially troubling considering Walker’s frequent claim to be a fiscally conservative budget hawk. His campaign website claims that:

“he has proposed bold reforms that have eliminated the state’s $3.6 billion budget deficit without raising taxes…these profound changes have saved Wisconsin taxpayers more than $2 billion.”

To have a record demonstrating these things and then to display such inconsistency and recklessness with taxpayer money is not a promising sign.

It’s been rather interesting to see members of both the left and the right come together in opposing Walker on the stadium issue. On the right, Americans for Prosperity, Reason Magazine and the Cato Institute have objected to the plan. On the left, NPR contributor Charles Peirce, Bloomberg and Think Progress have also been critical. With this kind of bipartisan opposition, Walker’s recent actions have become a frequent target.

The “average” Republican voter may still be unaware of the Walker stadium debacle. Other candidates hadn’t aggressively criticized him on the issue and it didn’t come up in either of the GOP debates. In the last debate, frontrunner Donald Trump did bring up an example of Walker’s lack of fiscal restraint as governor. But the accusation was proven to be misleading. Perhaps Trump is hesitant to criticize his rival over crony capitalist deals out of fear that it may shine a light on The Donald’s own use of eminent domain laws to pad his personal bank account.

Even though the $250 million dollar stadium deal may not be one of the major causes of Walker’s downfall, it looks to be one of several examples of his incoherent message. From flip flopping on support for ethanol subsidies to briefly backing a wall along the US-Canada border, missteps and inconsistency have been the norm. Spending the kind of money Walker wants to spend on a new stadium doesn’t appear to be the cause of his electoral collapse. It’s simply a symptom of it.

 

 

 

No Cause for Concern Over Easy Majors for Athletes

It has recently come to the attention of the media that Auburn University reversed an initial decision to eliminate the public administration major from the school’s curriculum in 2013. This reversal came as the result of resistance from Auburn’s athletic department. Apparently, the public administration major is looked down upon by much of the school’s faculty. But it’s popularity among athletes, specifically Auburn’s football team, is what looks to have kept it afloat.

So just how popular is being a public administration major at Auburn? Well, if you’re an athlete, quite popular indeed. Although public administration accounts for less than 1% of the school’s undergraduate student body, 51% of students pursuing this major were Auburn athletes according to 2013 statistics. Among this group were the university’s starting quarterback, running back, leading wide receiver and several starting defensive players. In 2014, 32% of the football team was majoring in public administration.

The reason for having a major like public administration at an elite division one athletic program like Auburn is pretty transparent. The unchallenging nature of the course material usually makes it easier for students athletes who are looking to focus more energy on their sport. According to an internal athletic department memo from 2012, “If the public administration program is eliminated, the [graduation success rate] numbers for our student-athletes will likely decline.”

Some will predictably criticize Auburn (and other similar big conference schools) for continuing to have these kinds of majors. But let’s stop and think about what harm is really being done by this. Are there any real victims in this whole ordeal?

Someone able to play football at Auburn, undoubtedly a great college football program, is clearly among the elite young football players in the country. Odds are, someone good enough to compete on this level is probably better at football than they are at anything else. So if this is the case, shouldn’t someone gifted in this way be able to focus as much energy as possible on the thing that they are best at? If choosing to major in public administration enables these elite football payers to spend more time and effort improving their football abilities, then having this major as an option should be seen as a positive rather than a blemish on Auburn’s academics.

Without the public administration option, some of the school’s football players would be forced to choose more challenging majors. This would lead to less available time for training, practice, weight lifting and all of the other things that can improve the skills of a football player. Thus, the talent of the players and the overall football program at Auburn could suffer. Considering the amount of money Auburn brings in through the success of their football team, this kind of potential decline would indeed be problematic.

Individual players on Auburn’s football team no longer able to major in something like public administration would face more significant roadblocks en route to becoming highly paid professionals. College is supposed to be an institution which prepares someone for a professional career where they can make a living. Taking elite college football players away from improving their talents so that they might become professional football players runs counter to what college is supposed to be about. Especially since the salary of a rookie professional athlete far exceeds virtually any other salary someone could obtain immediately after college.

While it’s certainly true that not all of Auburn’s players will reach the NFL, going to college in general is no guarantee of employment in a field requiring a college degree. According to a careerbuilder.com survey, half of recent college graduates are working in jobs not requiring those degrees. And since less than 1% of Auburn’s students major in public administration (as previously mentioned), it’s not as if a significant portion of undergraduates are being duped into choosing an easy major that teaches them very few skills. Students at the school more or less know what public administration is there for and know enough to avoid majoring in it.

In an ideal world, amateur athletics for all sports would take place independently from colleges and universities. Young aspiring pros would advance through levels just below the professional level which would most likely be controlled by professional teams. This would look very similar to what the minor leagues are to Major League Baseball.

But of course, we don’t live in an ideal world. The NCAA would never let something encroach on its control over athletes prior to becoming professionals. So if easy classes and sham majors are the price we pay for the ability of elite athletes to specialize in what they do best, then so be it. Not only do the athletes benefit, but the university gets to make more money and the students get to watch a more talented football team. Sounds like a win all around.

 

Labor Unions at the Heart of NY’s Dangerous and Foolish MMA Ban

This past weekend, the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) experienced one of its biggest Pay Per View events ever in UFC 189 live from Las Vegas, Nevada. Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) is widely considered to be the fastest growing sport in America and perhaps even the world. Thus, many different cities both inside and outside the United States have hosted MMA events. But in one state, New York, MMA remains illegal and will likely remain that way for at least one more year. The sport is legal and regulated by the proper authorities in the other 49 states.

 The inability of New York legislators to end the prohibition of MMA remained the norm once again this year after a legalization bill was not brought before the New York State Assembly for vote. The New York State Senate has passed a legalization bill each of the past six years. There was more hope for 2015 after former speaker of the New York Assembly Sheldon Silver, a major opponent of MMA legalization in the state, resigned due to an arrest on federal corruption charges back in January. But alas, there was not even a vote on the bill despite these advantages.

 It’s tempting to think that the continued political resistance to state sanctioned MMA bouts is a simple case of government nanny-stating creeping into the world of sports. After all, it was former mayor of New York City Michael Bloomberg who banned trans-fats, public smoking and extra-large sodas (amongst other things). So perhaps it would make sense that the elected officials in the state of New York would extend the same kind of heavy handedness that Bloomberg so regularly applied to NYC. However, the real story is far more complicated and reeks of far more corruption than do-good politicians who try to run people’s lives.

 The story of MMA’s continued illegality in the Empire State centers around two of the UFC’s owners, brothers Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta. In addition to the UFC, the Fertittas also own Station Casinos in Las Vegas. This puts them at odds with the powerful Culinary Workers Union since Station Casinos is non-union. This union’s parent organization is called Unite Here and encompasses several different union organizations throughout the country. Unite Here’s headquarters is in New York City. Thus the adherence by New York politicians to union demands is far greater when a union hub is in close proximity. Of course, if one of those demands is that businessmen who hire non-union staffs are not allowed to expand their business into your state, then those union bankrolled politicians will apparently comply.

 The Politicians who say they wish to ban MMA for safety reasons really have no leg to stand on. There has never been a life altering condition or death associated with the sport. Boxing can’t say the same, as anyone who has merely taken a glimpse of Mohammed Ali in the past 20 plus years can attest to. Football can’t say the same either, as Junior Seau, Dave Duerson and Mike Webster all passed away long before their time. Both football and boxing are perfectly legal in the state of New York.

 Not only are the dangers of MMA overblown, but there’s actually even more danger in not legalizing the sport. Just like alcohol prohibition in the 1920’s and early 1930’s resulted in death, blindness, and increases in organized crime, prohibition on MMA has similar consequences. Fighting of this nature has been driven underground in New York where it is unregulated and far more dangerous. Many politicians never seem to learn the lesson of unintended consequences that come from banning something desired by certain segments of society.

 It appears the New York State Assembly is not only using dirty politics as a roadblock to prevent the expansion of a business which is legal everywhere else in the country, but their continuing prohibition of this business is actually harming those in the state who wish to engage in the prohibited activity. Combine these things with the revenue lost by New York to other states willing to hold sanctioned MMA bouts and it adds up to a very steep price to pay to keep the union bosses happy. So the politicians and the unions may have us believe that this prevented legality is somehow worth it, the reality of the costs tell us that this simply isn’t true.

 

 

 

 

The Government’s Opinion of the Confederate Flag has Nothing to do with Free Speech

In the midst of the national purging of the Confederate flag from a whole host of venues, ESPN host Keith Olbermann went to the airwaves recently in order to attempt to make a comparison. In this attempt, he cited a recent Supreme Court case in which it was ruled that the Texas government did not overstep the First Amendment in denying the Sons of Confederate Veterans’ request for specialty license plates bearing the Confederate flag. Thus, it was ruled constitutional for the state of Texas to deny this group license plates with this symbol.

Olbermann then pivoted to apply this ruling to the Washington Redskins organization and their judicial effort to reverse the U.S. Trademark Trial and Appeal Board’s June 2014 ruling to cancel the team’s six trademark protections on grounds of the name ‘Redskins’ being “disparaging” to Native Americans. The host then reported that the judge in this case (Gerald Bruce Lee), told lawyers on both sides that “they should focus on how the Supreme Court ruling on the Confederate flag affects their case.” The audience was then informed that “the lawyers for the Native American side said, obviously, that their case was strengthened since when the Supreme Court ruled that when Texas refused to make the confederate plates because they were offensive, that did not mean that Texas was infringing on the First Amendment free speech rights of those who wanted an offensive symbol on their license plates and thus, that the United States would also not be infringing upon the First Amendment free speech rights of a company who wanted to use an offensive name for their products.” (emphasis mine)

These lawyers are making a rather dangerous assertion. License plates are issued solely by the state as a form of identification. The state is not afforded the same right to speech as individuals or groups of individuals. No individual or group of individuals should have the right to use the state to express a viewpoint. This is because the state is simply force. Nothing more, nothing less. A sports team, on the other hand, is a collection of individuals. Thus, First Amendment protections clearly apply to them regardless of their offensiveness. A sports team is not force no matter how many billions of dollars the team is worth. It cannot (by itself) tax us, arrest us, send us to prison or fine us. The state of course can and does do all of these things. Only imposition by private individuals on the state could result in confederate license pates. But only coercion by the state can prevent private individuals from expressing something that is allegedly offensive. This is why the lawyers for the Native American case are making such a dangerous claim. The First Amendment protects the right to be free from state coercion, not the right to convey your expression by way of the state.

So if a state (like Texas) refuses to grant identification with controversial symbols on it and then a government can rule that because of that refusal that First Amendment protections do not apply to private citizens who exhibit controversial symbols, then what limits are there to the free speech violations that a government could take part in? How many other controversial symbols do various states not issue on forms of identification? Probably a lot. But a lack of state issue has absolutely nothing to do with a private citizen or organization being entitled to free speech while displaying a symbol that some say is controversial. It certainly shouldn’t affect whether or not a private organization can be deprived of trademark protection as a result of a name or symbol that offends some people. A government cannot be its own standard bearer with regard to what is unoffensive enough to deserve First Amendment rights. If it ever becomes this way, our nation will start down a very slippery slope.

If government can use its own standards for what it chooses to express and not express to control the expression of its citizens, then we truly do not live in a free society. As former state judge and current Fox News judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano said when discussing this issue, “who cares what the government thinks.” Government thinking about what is or isn’t offensive is subject to the whims of whoever controls that government after any given election cycle. But the freedom to speak freely should never depend on the opinions of those who rule over us.

Shame on the NCAA For Not Being More Like the Minor Leagues

Northwestern University Athletics Director Jim Phillips had some strong words for the NBA and its influence over college basketball. While introducing some new ideas that ranged from shortening collegiate athletic seasons, to possibly eliminating freshman eligibility, Phillips then set his sights on college basketball’s “one and done” phenomenon by saying:

“…frankly speaking, shame on us. We have allowed the National Basketball Association to dictate what our rules are or influence what our rules are at the collegiate level. I think they look at us as the minor leagues. Nobody feels good about kids going to a school for a semester and then leaving. That’s absurd.”[1]

Now Phillips is actually correct that the NBA has influenced how basketball operates at the college level. By requiring those entering the NBA draft to be one year removed from high school and be 19 years of age, players good enough to be drafted by a professional team out of high school now have to spend a year elsewhere before this happens. But before this rule was adopted by the NBA (in 2005), elite players often went straight into the league out of high school. Was Phillips equally as worried about the players entering the NBA out of high school and spending zero semesters in college? Something tells me he probably wasn’t.

But the Athletic Director’s remarks deriding how college basketball has turned into “the minor leagues” (I’m assuming he means Minor League Baseball) is especially telling. Implied is that Minor League Baseball is something undesirable and inferior with respect to what the NCAA should desire to be. Nothing could be further from the truth. If you disagree, ask yourself the following questions:

– Does Minor League Baseball prevent its players from profiting off of their talent, imposing penalties like suspensions for infractions while the league itself pockets millions of dollars?

-Did Major League Baseball establish a rule requiring Minor League players to play a fixed amount of time at the Minor League level before being able to play at the Major League level?

-Does Minor League Baseball lie about the importance of their players receiving an education while some are attending fake classes?

The answer to all of these questions is a resounding no. But make no mistake, the NCAA is guilty of every one of them. Neither Jim Phillips, nor any other college’s athletic director, is realistically able to admit this. Therefore, college becoming minor league “esque” is something that can never be virtuous no matter how strongly reality proves otherwise.

So like Northwestern’s AD, I too believe that what the NCAA has done is shameful. But what should have caused that shame was their unwillingness to embrace the Minor League Baseball’s model of allowing their players to engage in methods to profit off of the talent that they have. Hopefully more people will realize that this is the more beneficial and more ethical system for those who are skilled in this particular way.

 

1.  http://thegazette.com/subject/sports/northwestern-ad-shame-on-us-for-allowing-nba-to-shape-eligibility-rule-20150519

How a Lame NCAA Suspension Actually Benefited Todd Gurley

With this year’s NFL draft behind us, many will reflect on the journeys that the draftees took en route to a professional football career. Certainly one of the more unique situations of a highly ranked selection was that of Georgia running back Todd Gurley. The St. Louis Rams took Gurley 10th in the draft, making him just the 3rd running back take with a top ten pick in the last seven years. But this isn’t what makes Gurley’s arrival in the NFL so unusual.

The 2014 college football season couldn’t have started any better for Todd Gurley. After putting up 198 rushing yards and three touchdowns in an opening game demolition against Clemson, he went on to rush for over 100 yards in three of his next four games. Then, a curious thing happened. The NCAA suspended Gurley for four games after it was found out that he had received more than $3,000 in exchange for autographed memorabilia. This effectively ended his chances for winning the Heisman Trophy. But this too is not that terribly unusual in the landscape of college athletics.

What makes Gurley’s punishment and draft selection so unique is that the penalty he incurred probably helped him more than it hurt him. Five games into the 2014 season, when the NCAA penalty came down, Gurley had already established himself as arguably the best running back in the country. Sitting out for four games likely didn’t effect where a team would have selected him in the draft (and as mentioned previously, taking a running back with a top 10 pick is unusual these days anyway). In addition, not being able to perform on the field takes away the possibility of serious injury. After Gurley’s dominance was established and NFL teams were aware of his performance level, any further participation on his part (especially at a high risk position like running back) would have increased his chance for serious injury and may have cost him a few spots in the draft. When you’re talking about the draft, slipping a few picks can cost an athlete millions of dollars.

The ironic thing about this whole ordeal is that by punishing Gurley for profiting off of his talent at a place he was not able to do so, the NCAA may have made it easier for him to profit off that talent at a place where he is able to do so (the NFL). Competing in a violent sport after already establishing yourself as the best amateur at your position is a risky bet with little reward. So the NCAA’s suspension of Gurley actually came at a very opportune time. Now he will be receiving a contract befitting a top ten NFL pick (not to mention endorsement deals) and his four game suspension is something of a distant, inconsequential memory. The incompetence of the NCAA seems to be on full display as their attempt to penalize someone whose only crime was profiting off his name completely backfired.

Hernandez Case Shows Hypocrisy of Race Baiters

As many now know, former New England Patriots’ tight end Aaron Hernandez has been found guilty of first degree murder, and sentenced to life in prison without parole. Hernandez was tried in a Massachusetts courtroom for the 2013 killing of Odin Lloyd, a onetime friend of his. Those familiar with the case know that Lloyd was a former semi-pro football player for the Boston Bandits. He was also black. Hernandez is of mixed-race heritage since his father is of Puerto Rican ancestry and his mother’s ancestry is Italian.

If the races involved in this killing are giving you a flashback, there’s probably a good reason. The entire country was swept up in the 2012 killing of black teenager Trayvon Martin by the half-white, half-Peruvian George Zimmerman. The civil rights establishment and other black advocacy groups were up in arms over the killing, and rushing to paint it as an example of extreme racial prejudice and profiling. When Zimmerman was ultimately found not guilty, it caused riots, marches and other displays of public outcry.

Despite these similarities, Hernandez’s killing of Lloyd was not met with the same public outrage from the usual suspects in the race baiting crowd. But why not? As with Martin-Zimmerman, there is a half-white, half-Hispanic man accused of murdering a black person. Why wasn’t Hernandez branded the full-fledged racist that Zimmerman was accused of being?

Sadly, the answer to this question can be answered with the associations Hernandez had made by the time of the murder. Even though Hernandez wasn’t black at all, many of his friends have been. In fact, two men that were also arrested for Lloyd’s death and charged with his murder, Carlos Ortiz and Ernest Wallace, are black. Hernandez’s fiancé, Shayanna Jenkins, is also black. Proving that a man with these kinds of close relationships with blacks was racially motivated to kill a black person would be a much tougher sell for the race hustlers in American society, rather than portraying that a neighborhood watch volunteer in a gated community was racially motivated in killing someone black. Thus, the Hernandez case, despite the publicity it got, was largely left alone by the people who screamed about the supposed racism of George Zimmerman.

Of course, this isn’t a surprise to most of us that follow the typical patterns of the race-baiting black leadership in America. Over 90% of the time that a black person is killed in this country, they are killed by another black person. But highlighting those cases would disrupt the narrative of the white oppressor vs. the black victim that these leaders want so desperately to promote. Not seeing blacks as victims of white oppression, but as victims of problems with their own communities and culture, embraces a responsibility that race baiters had always rejected. Therefore, the rejection of this responsibility would cause the assumption of it to automatically fall to whites rather than blacks. This is the mindset that the civil rights establishment must keep afloat today.

Ultimately, the lack of attention paid to the Hernandez trial by the black leadership was the result of the façade that must continue to be portrayed. Despite Hernandez not possessing a drop of black blood in his body, calling attention to the races involved in Lloyd’s killing would also call attention to the involvement of his two black co-conspirators. As a result, the entire paradigm of white oppressors and black victims would be challenged to an extent that the modern-day civil rights leaders would not be comfortable with. Since Zimmerman had no blacks involved with him in the altercation and eventual killing of Martin, portraying blacks and whites (or even mixed-raced non-blacks) in this manner was of no obstacle for those who are so eager to do it.

The Hernandez-Lloyd and Zimmerman-Martin cases show that even the slightest disruption to the race-baiter’s narrative can cause vastly different responses. The mere involvement of black people in Lloyd’s killing was enough to create a roadblock to his being the poster child for black victimhood that was so easily ascribed to Martin. If all black lives truly matter (as the newly popular saying goes), then the ending of Odin Lloyd’s life should have brought the same passion for justice as the death of Trayvon Martin. But sadly, thanks to politically correct agendas, it most certainly did not.

Grantland’s Pierce: Government Force Justified Unless Proof Exists of Prior Harm

In the midst of an article discussing the events from the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, Grantland.com writer Charles P. Pierce unsurprisingly used a sizable chunk of his platform to discuss politics. Specifically the bill signed by Indiana Governor Mike Pence (Senate Bill 101) that would (amongst other things) make it legal for businesses in the state to discriminate against homosexuals. With the Final Four coming to Indianapolis next week, Pierce’s concern over the attention paid to this issue boiled over.

Among this angry and degrading rant from Pierce, it was highlighted that Governor Pence “couldn’t come up with a single example whereby a private business had been injured in any way by catering to gay or lesbian customers.” Apparently this lack of an example is all that is needed to force a business to serve those individuals they do not wish to serve according to Pierce. So because a governor can’t think of an example of a prior instance of damage, hardship or inconvenience caused to a business owner who catered to a specific group, that gives the state the right to impose its will on any private business owner. Of course, what the state would be hindering would be the freedom of association. This is not only the freedom to freely associate, but also the freedom to not associate with whichever person or group you wish when it comes to your own property.

Demanding examples of prior injury as some sort of bizarre prerequisite to avoid government suppression of a basic right (like association) sets a dangerous precedent. After all, can someone’s Second Amendment rights be taken away as a result of a lack of proof that restricting their right to bear arms would injure them? If you can’t prove how the government’s domestic spying programs have hurt you, does that give the government the freedom to restrict your Fourth Amendment rights? Clearly a person’s freedoms do not depend on the ability of that person to prove to the government the extent to which denying those freedoms would cause them harm. But I guess Charles P. Pierce thinks otherwise.

Also, consider a scenario in which the governor (or someone else) was able to provide an example of prior injury due to catering to gays and lesbians. Would that one example be good enough for Pierce? What about two examples? What about five? Or maybe ten? I think you can get the point. If it is no longer legal to privately discriminate because there are no examples of prior injury in catering to a specific group, then the illegality of private discrimination is based upon that number being zero. But if one or more examples existed, then the basis of outlawing private discrimination evaporates.

Of course, rights are not based on prior incidents. They are inherent to us and recognized by our Constitution. Rights make it so that the burden of proof is never on us to secure our freedoms by demonstrating how we might be harmed if our liberty is taken away. Rather, it is government which must assume and respect the freedom instilled in all of us.

The Irrelevance of College Basketball in Developing NBA Talent

With college basketball’s conference championship tournaments in full swing and Selection Sunday approaching, an inevitable comment will be made at some point during March Madness. This comment, which will likely come from a studio commentator or broadcaster (last year it was Charles Barkley, who I otherwise enjoy listening to), will advocate for more basketball players to stay in college to work on their game. Unfortunately, many people hearing the comment will agree with whichever television personality utters it. The reason that this is unfortunate is because there is virtually no evidence that staying in college for the purpose of improving as a basketball player is a more effective option than trying to improve in the NBA or elsewhere. Those who believe college has a monopoly on player improvement have been badly misled or are lying to themselves.

First, let’s discuss a little background on this issue. In 1995, Kevin Garnett became the first high school player to enter the NBA Draft in 20 years. From then until 2005, 39 different players were drafted by the league out of high school. Negotiations began in 2005 between the league and the NBA players’ union on the proposal of a new age limit. The league wanted an age limit of 20, while the players’ union did not want the age limit to be changed at all. In July of that year, the two sides compromised to require draft entrants to be 19 and spend at least one year out of high school before draft eligibility. However, players are not required to spend that year in college.

The introduction of this new age limit has often caused top level talent in college to only spend one year there before leaving the school for the NBA. This phenomenon is often called being a “one and done” player. The frequency of these “one and done” players has become unpopular and controversial to the point that some, including new NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, have supported the league once again attempting to raise the minimum age requirement to 20. But what is the motivation for an elite player choosing to leave college after just one season? Well, the obvious answer would of course, be money. But the better question would be: what is the motivation in wanting those elite players to play in college longer?

One of the claims made by the proponents of requiring a lengthened stint in college is that playing at the collegiate level better enables a player to improve his skills. To believe this, one would have to conclude that improving as a player is somehow exclusive to those who play college basketball. Anyone who even remotely follows NBA Basketball should know that this isn’t true. After all, were high school draftees like the aforementioned Garnett and Kobe Bryant All Stars in their first season? No, they were not. In addition, the NBA’s Most Improved Player award has gone to a player drafted out of high school three times (Tracy McGrady in 2001, Jermaine O’Neal in 2002 and Monta Ellis in 2007) and a player only playing one year of college ball once after the new age limit was imposed (Kevin Love in 2011). Clearly NCAA Basketball does not have a monopoly on player development.

College basketball’s advocates somehow ignore how often the best NBA players are those who spent the least amount of time possible playing elsewhere before entering the professional level. From 1995-2005, players entering the draft out of high school accounted for three MVP award winners (Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant and Lebron James) and seven more who made at least one All Star Game (Jermaine O’Neal, Tracy McGrady, Rashard Lewis, Tyson Chandler, Amar’e Stoudemire, Dwight Howard and Andrew Bynum). Since the age limit change, the best players are often now the ones who just play one year in college before entering the draft. From the 2006 draft to the present, players waiting the minimum amount of time before turning pro have accounted for two MVP winners (Derrick Rose and Kevin Durant) and five more who have made at least one All Star Game (Kevin Love, John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Kyrie Irving and Anthony Davis). Certainly a lack of exposure to the college game did not hold any of these athletes back from becoming an elite player.

Recent NBA history is littered with examples of players achieving success despite limited or no college and other players who succeeded during a lengthy stint in college having underwhelming professional careers. Perhaps the best example of this was during the 2004 Draft where the two best big men were Dwight Howard and Emeka Okafor. The size of the two players and the position they played were very similar (Howard is listed as an inch taller and 20 pounds heavier. Both were built as if someone had engineered them in a lab somewhere). However, the contrast between the collegiate careers of the two men could not have been more different. Howard, of course, had no collegiate career. He came into the NBA directly out of a private high school in Atlanta and was considered to be a “raw” talent. Meanwhile, Okafor had spent three years at the University of Connecticut which culminated with a National Championship victory and the award for the Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four.

The Orlando Magic’s decision to draft Howard over Okafor with the number one draft pick was met with harsh criticism. Howard was almost an unknown whereas Okafor had succeeded on the biggest collegiate stage possible. During each player’s rookie season (2004-2005), it looked like the critics may have had a point. Howard did average a respectable 12 points and 10 rebounds per game. But Okafor averaged 15.1 points and 10.9 rebounds while picking up Rookie of the Year honors. Since this initial season though, a different story has emerged. Okafor never went on to average as many points as he did during his rookie campaign (mostly due to injury). He never made an All Star Team or any of the All NBA Teams. Conversely, Howard turned himself into one of the best big men of his generation. He made five All NBA first teams, won three Defensive Player of the Year awards and took his team to the 2009 NBA Finals. So much for Okafor’s college development making any difference at all when it came to competing at the NBA level.

As I mentioned earlier, the age limit that the league adopted in 2005 does not actually require a draftee to play college basketball. As a result, playing somewhere other than college remains and option. But how beneficial would playing somewhere else (like overseas) be to an aspiring future NBA player coming out of high school? Fortunately there is a recent example we can use to assess the possible benefits of this option. Rather than playing college basketball as an 18 year old, Brandon Jennings (one of the top high school prospects in the country coming out of high school in 2008) decided instead to go to Italy and play in the Euroleague. He then decided to enter the NBA draft a year later in 2009, when he was first eligible. Although Jennings isn’t a superstar, he was one of the best guards in his draft class and made the All-Rookie First Team in 2010. He has averaged a solid 16.6 points and 6.2 assists per game for his career and is still only 25. Perhaps skipping college is not such a bad move after all.

Despite all of the previously mentioned evidence that indicates the insignificance of college level player development, many still will not let go of their desire for an increase of the NBA age limit. So why is this the case? One of the reasons advocates give for an increased age limit centers on education. They make the claim that their desire to have college basketball players get an education is the source of their push for an age limit increase. Wanting someone to become better educated can certainly be a virtuous cause. But when it is claimed as motivation for increasing the NBA draft’s age limit, ulterior motives are almost always in play. If it really were the case that the supporters of a 20 year age limit cared so much about elite athletes getting an education, they would apply the same logic to elite athletes in other sports who attempt to turn professional rather than going to or staying in college.

A great example of a sport that shows this inconsistent philosophy is baseball. Often times the top level of high school baseball players choose to enter the Major League Baseball draft rather than attend college. In fact, in last year’s MLB draft, four out of the top six players taken were out of high school rather than college. But do you ever hear anyone lamenting over how horrible it is that great young baseball players are choosing against going to college and are entering the draft instead? If the number one baseball prospect coming out of high school this year (I looked it up, his name is Brendan Rodgers) chooses to enter the draft instead of going to college (and I’m sure he could go play wherever he wanted being the number one prospect in the nation), do you hear any complaining from the pro-college crusaders? But why not? Both a player entering the MLB draft out of high school and a player entering the NBA draft, either out of high school (when that was possible), or after just one year of college, are choosing the prospect of a professional sports career over being a student athlete. So why all of the crying into the night about basketball players taking this path, while baseball players taking the same path produce the sound of crickets?

The answer to the aforementioned question can be found in the love that people have for the game of college basketball. I’ve met many basketball fans throughout my life who enjoy college basketball more than NBA basketball. But I don’t think I’ve ever met a baseball fan who enjoyed college baseball more than Major League Baseball. The desire that people have in raising the NBA’s minimum age limit is really about keeping better players in college in order to improve the quality of play that the college game experiences. Since hardly anyone watches or cares about college baseball, elite players playing elsewhere and not improving the collegiate quality of play is of no one’s concern.

So I would encourage the proponents of raising the NBA’s age limit to be honest above all else. Stop telling us that a basketball player who develops his game in college is better off than one who does his developing in the NBA. It clearly isn’t true. Stop telling us that you are so concerned with young elite athletes becoming educated in college. If that were the case, then you would care about elite athletes in every sport getting a college education, not just basketball. In order to truthfully advocate for an NBA age limit increase, do so by telling us this:

“I love college basketball so much that I want to force players who are talented enough to become professionals, to remain at the collegiate level so that the college game becomes better than it would otherwise be.”

Somehow that doesn’t have as much of a ring to it as a developmental or pro-educational argument.