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All NACDA Members
College Athletics in the Year 2000/Perspective #4
(Monday, June 19 - 9:30 a.m.)

Joe Crowley:

Thank you, Patty. We're honored to have as our concluding panelist this morning, Rev. Jesse Jackson, a graduate of North Carolina A&T, where he was a student-athlete. A distinguished leader of our times in many ways -- politics, civil rights, otherwise, he's the president and founder of the Rainbow Coalition, Rev. Jesse Jackson.

Rev. Jesse Jackson:

Let me express my thanks and my delight in having this opportunity to share with you on this occasion. I want to support the last speaker's position about athletic money going to lawyers. To you, Mr. President, presiding officers and all of you who are present. The fact that we have a panel today that's white and black, male and female, is evidence of a struggle to be expansive, to be inclusive, to hear other points of view as we broaden and as we accept our obligation to do that which is right and that which is just.

Racial justice and gender equality are critical issues of our time, but they were ignored in our past. Racial equity has become an ever-increasing issue in intercollegiate athletics. While there is a national attack on Affirmative Action, no where is there more a glaring disparity than in college sports. Fuller half of the NCAA Division I basketball and football players are black, but only 6.2 percent of athletic administrators, including coaches, are black. The showing of minority representation in athletics administration positions at NCAA institutions is appalling. Coupled with the over disproportionate affect of academic standards of minority student-athletes, has led to questions about the future. This uncertainty has led the Rainbow Coalition Commission on Fairness in Athletics. The convention of the National Rainbow Summit on Minority Concerns in Intercollegiate Athletics will be held June 23 and 24 in the Blackburn Center at Howard University in Washington. Some of you are coming. We urge all of you to come and to be a part of that.

We had a session about three weeks ago with Dr. Albino and a cross-section of NCAA officials en route for this meeting, searching for ways to expand the participation of African-Americans and women vertically and horizontally in this process. The goals of that conference will be to work out an agreement with the NCAA regarding giving cultures more freedom to interact with minority youth as part of Rainbow's Reclaim Our Youth Project.

Our second goal is an agreement with the NCAA regarding improving minority hiring in intercollegiate athletics. Three, seeking academic standards that would not have a disproportionate negative impact on minorities. Four, ways to improve opportunities for black women in college sports, and five, ways to enhance athletics programs at historically black colleges.

In a real sense, athletics, while seen as marginal to our culture, has been the transforming agent of our culture. More so than church or the Bankers' Association or the Congress of the State Legislatures or the courts, athletics have proven to be the field where opportunity tends to blossom and true mental and true grit is tested. No other place do we see the level of meritocracy, the blending of interests, teamwork, socialization and life-long friendships grow than from years of shared sweat and blood and hard work and high risk living and working and traveling together. Why am I so interested in this above and beyond all of my other work? I was blessed to become a student-athlete. My coach, beyond my biological parents, was my way out. It was he who taught and enforced curfew and we learned to appreciate it. It was enlightened dictatorship. It was taught and enforced. It's where I learned physical habits, what was required to be eligible and skills and scholarships. And, I learned that at the end of the day, the spoils go to the victor. One must learn to win and one must learn to lose, but not within a sense of equality. One has far greater, longer lasting memorable benefits.

Student-athletes are recruited vigorously. From those same ghettos are chemists, pilots, astronauts and mathematicians - and they're left behind. There is a climate in which we are now living that's going to affect the year 2000 unless all of us assume some responsibility as adults, as citizens, as well as student-athletes or leaders of our athletic programs. There's a prevailing climate of hate and hurt and humiliation rather than hope and healing and heroism. That sense of hate and hurt and humiliation just may find itself in throwing down helmets. It just may express itself in talking. There is a prevailing climate where hate and hurt have become commodities. Somehow, hope and healing and heroism must prevail.

Why do African-Americans, with all the gaps in opportunity, all of the crisis that makes us feel tense even as I talk in the room today, why is that prevailing sense of tension all around us? Yet, on that field between the lines, there is a sense of camaraderie. I noticed in that game between the Pacers and the Knicks, when that last shot was made that Sunday afternoon, none of the black players on the Pacers felt disappointed. There's a sense that beyond skin color, was uniform color. There were some transcendent values. There are very few places in our society that we see evidence of these transcendent values as if we're living above the rim.

What makes the playing field so different? Why is there not the human cry for Affirmative Action on the playing field? You hear it in the coaches' offices, the athletic directors' offices. But, why is there no human cry for Affirmative Action in the boxing ring or the football field, the basketball court or the track field? Because it's an even playing field. It's almost a sanctuary. It's unlike any other place we know. When the playing field is even, when the court has the same measurements, when the goals are the same height, when you play with one ball, one set of rules, that tends to be a level of achievement. A level where the winners and losers can accept their fate is when the playing field is even.

Last week, a Supreme Court decision came down. It's going to affect the year 2000. It assures a less even or an uneven playing field. In a real sense, what the Adoranda Decision said in Colorado was that, while the courts admit that they have been a factor in the problem, and it was the courts who determined that African-Americans were three-fifths of a human being, the courts ruled that the blacks had no rights, whites were bound respect. It was the courts in 1954 that said this was wrong and we need to create an even playing field, not immediately, but by some protracted action, called delivery speed. It was the court that admitted that they had failed to enforce their law, but in spite of that, they had no future role in evening the playing field. So, the gap between the haves and have-nots would get greater. The burden of proof was shifted from effect to intent. The burden of proof would become more costly and chances are, there would be more discrimination and there would be more tension between the haves and have-nots. The Adoranda Decision did not lend itself to healing. A noticeable absence of any sense of historical context as they whiplashed the blacks and browns and women on the question of set asides for the 1932 all the FCC licenses that were set aside for the white males. All of the TV licenses were set aside for the white males. The Homestead Act, all the oil-rich and soil-rich land in Oklahoma, Texas and much of Louisiana were set asides for the whites. All of the Coca-Cola and Pepsi franchises were set asides for white males. Here we are in 1995, with some complaints about blacks and women wanting to become tax payers rather than tax consumers represent a threat to our way of life. Eighty percent white males are 29 percent of the work force. Eighty percent of all tenure professors are white males. Eighty percent of the U.S. Congress are white males. Ninety-two percent of the Forbes Richest 400 are white males. Owners of football, basketball and baseball franchises, except two, are white males. Ninety-seven percent of all school superintendents are white males. One hundred percent of U.S. Presidents are white males. Yet, that we now need two in the household to make a living for one, white women working have not hurt the White male household. Girls have been able to go to school to become doctors, lawyers and astronauts, pilots and managers and it has made America better and stronger and should not, in fact, make us bitter.

We must not give up on this struggle to make the playing field even. What that decision did was, again, make life in the university more difficult because there would be more attention paid to who gets in. The decision in Kansas was even more devastating than the Adoranda Decision. It saw a two-track school system -- one that leads to higher university training and one that leads to jail. In a city in the USA, the average per capita on youth is about $6,000 to $7,000, suburban youth per capita is $14,000 to $16,000. Just across the line, just across the border are two tracks, because the school system is based upon the income of parents. It's the parents in those neighborhoods where plants have left, where they're exporting plants and jobs rather than products, unemployment is high and per capita is low, those children are recycled in the madness and majoring impact of their poverty. But, just across the line where the grass is greener, at the end of 12 years, the $14,000-a-year students have one grade, the $6,000-a-year students have another grade. So, it's a two-track system, one counting on his fingers and one counting by computer. One scores high on tests and one scores low on tests. They come from the same state, living just across the border, in the same television market, but one comes out programmed for champagne, the other programed for a junior college or hamburgers or jail.

Chicago is a classic case of this jail industrial complex competition. The two newest buildings on west side Chicago, United Center Complex for the Bulls basketball and Cook County jail. The Bulls are being driven by blacks. One, with a few more opportunities and they are on the basketball court, generating revenue. One with a few less opportunities down the street at Cook County jail and they're costing revenue. Cook County jail has 13,500 inmates, 9,000 beds, over 9,000 blacks. It costs $7,000 a year to educate the child inside Chicago, $14,000 in the suburbs and $35,000 in Cook County Jail. Many of the inner-city youth, for them, going to jail is a step up.

Once they get to jail, it's warm in the winter, it's cool in the summertime. There is organized recreation, adult supervision, and no drive-by shootings. There is this drive by the lessor angels in us. To speak of three strikes and your out, therefore, I'm tough, but I'll be wise. The crime is vicious enough, the person is sick enough, to have one strike should be enough. Except, the real issue ought to be four balls and you're on for an enlightened civilization. Pre-natal care and head start, ball one. We know it works. Adequately funded public education, treatment beds for the sick, should be ball two. A marketable skill and access to college, ball three. And a job or economic development, ball four and you're home. Our whole direction toward the year 2000 is about building and expanding jail industrial complexes and not building schools, paying police and not coaches. Clinton wants 100,000 police. I want 25,000 coaches. Coaches have a way of developing youth in ways police have of chasing them. They're building a new jail across the street from the Cook County jail with 15,000 cells at $100,000 per cell. Another new jail called Super Max cost $450,000 per cell. By the year 2000, 1.3 million Americans in jail, 600,000 plus are black. Five times more than there are in South African jails, six times more than whites.

What is going on? If you're caught with five grams of crack cocaine, a $5 high, first time, non-violent offense, five years in the penitentiary is mandatory. If you're caught with 500 grams of powder cocaine, you can get probation. The difference between crack and powder cocain is a match. The same chemical substance, powder cocaine burned, becomes crack. Where did this come from? One hundred to one ratio? Lynn Bias died from an overdose of crack. The people of Boston were weeping because they lost their Michael Jordan/Byrd combination. Tip O'Neill rushed back to Washington. In three weeks, without a hearing, passed this bill which had this disproportionate painful racist impact upon these schools. But then, here are these children from this hole who don't fill an even field who are your market, who are your athletes who are America's citizens.

What are we going to do about it? First of all, admit that there is an unevenness on the playing field. So in the even rules that do not take into account unevenness are unfair rules by definition. It's unfair by definition because it ignores the fact that one is standing in a hole and one is standing on a hilltop. It's like ham and eggs justice. It sounds even and it smells even and when you cook it, it blends as if it were one. Whenever, there's a vote between hogs and chickens on ham and eggs sandwiches, hogs always vote against it, chickens always love it. They can drop an egg and move on. Hogs have to drop a leg and can't go further. It is not even. It's a kind of ham and egg justice. There must be some sensitivity to these gaps and the reality of them. What's wrong with having lower standards to get in, more time to graduate and the same chinbaugh to graduate. What's wrong with the process of development? It makes more sense to have a longer term on the development of citizens than the long term on the development of jails and incarceration. This idea that coaches cannot go into the ghettos in the summertime and help the coach recruit is something I disagree with. Some idea that coaches may be so dishonest, that coaches are so untrustworthy to make the inner-city in the summertime off limits to coaches. So what, if there are five or six playgrounds in the town where students are lined up to play their part trying to impress some coach? They could be doing worse. They're now lined up trying to impress the drug dealer. Gang bangers can recruit, drug dealers can recruit, the police can chase so, why can't coaches recruit? Why can't there be some honor among coaches? After all, these are our children at stake. The infrastructure for these children is disintegrating. Washington, D.C. is referred all through our nation as the murder capital. In D.C., the nation's capital, there is not one Olympic size swimming pool, not one skating rink, not one adult supervised playground left in Washington, D.C. , not one school with a baseball team because you can't get nine players for a baseball team. The infrastructure of our youth has been torn apart. They have it in the penitentiaries, not in the city. If there is some area recognized to be depraved called the empowerment zone, or some other characteristic to describe it, that other place, there must be rules that take into account how to lift people out of that hole. We need rules and reality. Rules that allow enough flexibility for coaches to reach down deeper, for students to stay in school longer and to graduate.

I'm very much for this revived emphasis in athletics on character. I do not think the issue of parenting is a marginal or side issue. Whatever coaches raise the issue of character as a factor in the worth of athletics, those who accept no responsibility for teaching character, look at the stats. Of course, they tend to write the rules. Our physics teachers assume no burden for teaching character. Math and English teachers assume no burden for teaching character, but, they don't have to. You don't have to teach character to pass the physics test. The absence of it means you'll steal the exam, but you still have to teach it. But a coach has to teach it and train you how to survive, how to win and how to live. No place does this happen and that's why you must help to set this pace. We really don't remember any outstanding speech Roosevelt made in 1936. We really don't remember any big piece of legislature passed in 1936, but we remember Jesse Owens in Germany. We mostly remember in 1947, Jackie Robinson. We mostly remember these great breakthroughs that make our civilization civil in the athletic arena. We must take no back seat in the role to make America great.

Two years ago, I was in Tampa/St. Petersburg with my boys. Three or four of the players on the Florida team, an all-black team, had family members in jail. That night, the announcer took the pains to explain that they had relatives in jail. Essentially, the coached cultivated ones for playing, the uncoached ones, deemed to be less worthy, were in jail - same household, same mother, same environment. Then, toward the end of the game as I watched people choose, Florida pulling for the ghetto blacks and a little less for Duke, even though Grant Hill was there, with two minutes to go and, obviously, Duke going to win, I said to Jesse, Jr., "I want you to watch how these Florida players, who come from a housing project two blocks down the street, who's brothers are in jail, handle this." The game was over and these guys were angry and hurt and embarrassed. They had their moment in the sun and lost the big game. On the floor, with their eyes full of water from weeping, put on their jackets, gritted their teeth, came onto the floor and the winners from Duke shook their hands firmly and gracefully. The losers shook their hands back while they wept and walked away. Nobody was calling anybody names, and no chairs were thrown. Why were those boys, under those conditions, out of that environment, out of that hole, able to lose with such grace before the world? Because they had been taught how. They had been coached into a higher order of discipline, not policed into it, coached into it. They had been socialized in contrast to the unsocialized ones. I make my case.

Give Mr. Clinton his 100,000 police, give me 25,000 coaches because that's where you find your Jack Primon and your Kellogg. That's where you find your Piccolo and your Gayle Sayers. That's where you find your Rice and your Montana. It's in this place, one place in America where the playing field is even. For as long as I live, I will strive to get this character thing. As much as I know about it, I learned on the playing field, before I heard the preacher talk about it in church. The good Samaritan reaching beyond the color and finding the person who needed help the most, didn't quite hit me like it did on the field. There is something to be learned from the coaches who understand how to make these parables real because this character thing is what will take us to the next step.

Not long ago, there was a riot in Los Angeles. A young black man, Rodney King, was beaten nearly to death by four racist white policemen. They were racists and they were wrong. Why can I assume that not all whites are racists on that basis? Because, had it not been for a white photographer who filmed and took it public, you would never know Rodney King existed. Rodney King was not a hero, he was a victim. The hero was the White photographer. But, none of our schools have given the photographer an honorary degree to suggest that there's some value on character. The star in that episode was that one man who was taught somewhere something about fairness, something about justice, something about not just looking good, but being good. He scored a touchdown that day in the big game, but none of our schools have given the white photographer an honorary degree. We complain when students steal and take their exams and put on their helmets, but this man helped to redefine the relationship between law and people. A few days after the police were set free, there was a riot and 55 people were killed.

Four young blacks snatched a white truck driver out of his truck and tried to kill him. But, don't assume that all young blacks are thugish on that basis. Four other young blacks saw it live on CNN and left their individual homes and saved him from them, took him to a hospital where a black Affirmative Action doctor performed surgery and saved the truck driver's life. There's something about this character thing. I would urge us as we make rules, make those rules driven by character and caring. Let this be the place where character and dignity will displace greed. Let us leave here with a mission to reclaim our youth. I simply want you to join the Rainbow in this process. I want to get in 50 top cities, 100 ministers and juvenile court judges to reclaim 20 youths each as an alternatives to unnecessary jailing. Let's reclaim them, they're ours. That's 100,000 youths we can reclaim with just 100 judges and churches figuring out ways to nurture and mentor our youth.

Why can't we get 20,000 parents in 50 markets to do five things -- take your child to school, meet your child's teachers, exchange home phone numbers, turn off the television three hours each night, pick up report cards every nine weeks. If that happens, that's one million parents. That doesn't cost another dime. Some of these at-risk youths we now have will be a little less at risk, if we work to form the parent-teacher joint venture. I've been to 18 penitentiaries since Christmas Day. Eighty percent of the inmates are drug positive, 92 percent are high school drop outs, 75 percent recidivism rate. If we can somehow reduce the high school drop outs and reduce recidivism, we can turn the corner.

Why do I believe so much in the poor desperate child making a comeback against the odds? Why do I believe that it's not just a matter of coaches talking? A guy came through the world a few years ago named Jesus Christ. Mary was a teenage mother, unmarried to an unemployed carpenter, Joseph. She was nine months pregnant and in labor, had to go 35 miles walking or by donkey to pay taxes, but didn't have the right to vote. Poor girl! Talked about and scandalized. Herod, the political officer, didn't provide any housing. The man with you has no job, get out. She had the baby at night in a stable in the winter. No heating, no carpet, no hot or cold running water, no doctor, no midwife, no nurse and Jesus was an at-risk baby. He was born on the edge and could have died from child complications. Somehow, though he was born in the slums, the slums not born in him. He rose above his circumstances. Though so many of our youth come from that stable, with just a brick or two here and there, they can rise above their circumstances, or, they can adjust to their environment. Jesus could have been a local Bethlehem drunk. He could have said, "When I was born, there were a lot of rumors about who my daddy was, my momma was a teenager and wasn't married, both of them had to pay taxes so they wouldn't go to jail. They came to Bethlehem and I was born that night. The government didn't like me. There wasn't anybody there but the animals." He could have been the local Bethlehem drunk talking about his pain. The Bible says you hear the voice saying, "You are my Beloved son and with whom I am well-pleased." There are so many of us, and I'm one of them, who heard the voice of a coach who said, "You can be somebody. You don't have to be clumsy. You can make it. If you make the training table, if you make your weight, if you obey the rules, if you do your best and make the grades, you can make it on either the lowest level or at the top." Every time I'm close to thinking about running for the White House, I can never detach this horse from the wagon lead by my coach.

Thank you very much.