Every spring the NCAA sponsors "March Madness" to determine a men's basketball national champion. And every year we get another story which details what a depraved, hypocritical, shameful and corrupt organization the NCAA truly is. If this were merely a story about collegiate sports, you might be justified in dismissing it, but it is not. The story of Kansas State's Jamar Samuels is a microcosm for what is rotten in America. And after you read it, you will find out once again that America is rotten to the core.
Let's have ESPN's Tim Keown introduce the story of Jamar Samuels.
Behold the spectacle of the NCAA tournament, the glory of the 15s beating the 2s, the heartwarming sight of the president of Ohio University giving a locker-room victory speech, the dual redemption stories of Cincinnati and Xavier.
As you do, you might have a vague awareness, deep down, that the entire enterprise is fueled by a swift undercurrent of hypocrisy and unfairness, but you're OK with that. As long as it doesn't interfere with anybody's rooting interests or the ability to brag about or bemoan our brackets, everything's cool. It's a healthy diversion.
So maybe this isn't the best time to consider the story of Kansas State senior forward Jamar Samuels, especially since K-State is finished and the Sweet 16 awaits. But of all the examples of alleged misconduct that have come and gone, even including the NCAA's public soiling of UConn's Ryan Boatwright earlier this season, Samuels' story deserves to be heard.
Samuels was suspended for Saturday's game against Syracuse by his university's athletic director — presumably as a pre-emptive strike — for taking $200 from his old AAU coach. The coach freely admits giving him the money, for one reason: Samuels needed it for food, and he reached out and asked for the coach's help. "If I wanted to hide it, I would have done it differently," Curtis Malone told Austin Meek of the Topeka Capital-Journal. "He needed money to eat."
Yes, you read that correctly—his old AAU coach Curtis Malone gave Samuels $200 so his family could eat. You know, for food, nourishment, nutrition. So they wouldn't starve to death. For this abominable, unforgivable crime, the NCAA suspended Samuels, a senior who was slated to play what might have been his last collegiate game. Kansas State was making a bid to get into the "Sweet Sixteen" against #1 ranked Syracuse.
Let's have The Nation's Dave Zirin pick up where Keown left off. Dave is outraged, as well he should be.
- How do NCAA players, old enough to vote and fight in wars, not even have the benefit of due process? Samuels was accused, no more no less. He had no rights to appeal or defend his name. His team had to figure out a new game plan with twenty minutes to spare, while administrators furiously tried to lobby officials to change their mind. The NCAA’s absolute authority as judge, jury and executioner, is a recipe for abuse.
- Jamar Samuels’s suspension led to the following headline that simply says it all: “Jamar Samuels Ruled Ineligible For Trying To Feed His Family.” His former coach, Curtis Malone, admitted after the suspension that he had given him $200 so Samuels could buy groceries for his mother. “Yeah, I did,” he said. “It’s the same way when he played [for me] on road trips. When he didn’t have money to eat, he ate.” He later told CBSSports.com, that he didn’t know that he was doing anything wrong. “If I knew it and wanted to hide it, I would have done it differently. The kid’s family doesn’t have anything and he called me for money to eat.” Neither Malone nor Samuels thought they were doing anything wrong. Malone had known Samuels’s mother for years and they live in a situation where poverty literally means not knowing how you will find food for the week.
- Let’s say Samuels did take the $200. Let’s say he walked on the court with two Ben Franklin’s pinned to his shirt. My only problem with that would be that it wasn’t more money and didn’t come from the NCAA instead of Curtis Malone. This March Madness tournament brings in $10.8 billion in television funds alone, comprising 90 percent of the NCAA’s operating budget and underwriting the lavish salaries of everyone we don’t pay to watch. NCAA President Mark Emmert won’t disclose his salary as leader of his “nonprofit” but it’s thought to be in excess of $2 million a year. He has fourteen vice presidents, each of whom make at least $400,000 annually. They are paid to make sure Jamar Samuels and friends don’t get a dime. What proud work.
- Jamar wears Nikes and the swoosh adorns his shoes and uniform. This is not personal brand preference. Nike is in the last year of a six-year, $12.3 million contract with Kansas State. Jamar has spent the last four years as a running, jumping human billboard for the global sporting apparel giant, with not a dime for his troubles. His coach, Frank Martin, with nary a swoosh on his body that we can see (I can’t speak for hidden tattoos or brands) makes $1.5 million a year...
You don't have to be a rocket scientist to see that the NCAA is all about the money. The tournament brings in $10.8 billion, which I'm sure goes a long way toward paying president Mark Emmert's undisclosed salary. And if "show me the money" is really your game, corporations like Nike are always there to give it to you. Samuels being a walking billboard for Nike is great, it's the American Way. And didn't the kid get a free pair of shoes out of the deal? But give that same kid $200 bucks so his mother can eat, and all of a sudden there's a violation of ethics, a moral crisis.
The Gospel of John (11:35) records that Jesus wept (in the Greek, ἐδάκρυσεν ὁ Ἰησοῦς). We don't know why he wept upon entering Jerusalem, a den of iniquity in his eyes, we only know that's what the New Testament says. But I can offer up a hypothesis. Maybe Jesus wept because dear old Dad, the Lord God our Creator, had completely bungled the job when he created Homo sapiens. Maybe Jesus wept because he couldn't see the reason for this elaborate game in which flawed, hypocritical, corrupt human beings are required to have unquestioning, absolute faith in the Father, making sure to not worship any false idols, to escape the mean and mysterious trap He set for them.
Whatever way it goes God-wise, we can certainly reaffirm that humans are still exactly the same fuck-ups they were in the 1st century A.D., and America is the New Jerusalem. The NCAA is the embodiment of that America. Here's Dave Zirin again.
The NCAA’s arrogance is stunning. They are banking on us being oblivious to the fact that they destroyed a team as well as possibly the prospects of Jamar Samuels just to flex their “moral authority” over an utterly amoral system. Former LSU coach, Dale Brown, was absolutely correct when he said that the NCAA does little more in the end, than "legislate against human dignity." This is why it has to go.
Well the NCAA is not going anywhere, just like Nike is not going anywhere, just like all the other rotten elements of this depraved society are not going anywhere. Having "moral authority" in a completely amoral system is par for the course in America, but the word that comes to mind for me in this situation is shame, not arrogance. I am a member of this species Homo sapiens I'm no big fan of, and when I think about the story of Jamar Samuels, I feel a boatload of shame. What a pity the NCAA doesn't feel the same way.