U.C.L.A basketball players from left, Cody Riley, LiAngelo Ball and Jalen Hill. Lucy Nicholson/ Reuters
I have heard a lot of commentary on these young men and the opinions expressed here are my own. My knee jerk reaction to initially hearing this story was their mama’s did not raise them right. Black American mom’s have had a credo that is a byproduct of the institution of slavery because as a people we and our children have lived under constant scrutiny of White America’s gaze. In the 1920’s, even the 1960’s a White Man’s word held more weight and was deemed more valid than a Black Man’s word and could result in the very loss of life most notably referenced in the tragic death of Emmett Till. And now here we are with these three young men. Even I feel like they made poor choices in China ultimately resulting in their arrest on November 8, 2017.
Colin Kaepernick is taking a huge “L” battling the NFL for racial injustice within our penal system and the ill treatment of Black Men at large by law enforcement, and these young men go to a foreign country and steal silly things like sunglasses. All you can do is shake your head in disbelief at the sheer stupidity. But I am also a mom and as a parent I have had to defend stupid decisions by my children. Yvette Carnell in her postings on YouTube speak about something called social capital, typically Black America does not have the same social capital as White America, generally speaking we cannot pick up the phone and call an Uncle that is a Politician, or a sibling that is a Judge and get our kids out of binds over stupid decisions made down at the local department store. That is the essence of what happened here and UCLA had enough social capital for the President of The United States to make an international call to President Xi Jinping of China to send these young men home.
Many are asking if LiAngelo Ball, Jalen Hill, and Cody Riley should be punished more severely now that they are home, and my point blank answer is no they should not. White boys do stupid things and get a slap on the wrist particularly within America’s Judicial system. Brock Turner is the poster child for this after serving 3 months of a convicted rape sentence resulting from one of the most lenient sentences in history because the boy reminded the Judge, Aaron Persky of his younger self, and Brock Turner never accepted his own culpability. People are saying they should be banned for the season – why, now we are ruining potential NBA careers and penalizing them within America’s social court, because they have to pay for a crime they essentially had waived. The international lens is embarrassment enough and sufficient punishment.
American African’s Descendants of Slaves literally built the United States of America. The NCAA does not pay players however according to the NY Times Article written by Victor Mather on Nov. 15, 2017, the “U. C. L. A. team’s trip to China was in part a way to raise the profile of the university and PAC-12 Conference in that country, possibly attracting students who have well-to-do parents and want to study abroad.” Translation this trip was about making money for UCLA building international good will. How many African American students before these young men have paid into the good will and branding value of U. C. L. A.? This blip is but a minor withdrawal from the bucket. If an accountant had to book this transaction, there would still be plenty of good will remaining. Due to lack of payment by NCAA, with the exception of LiAngelo Ball, how much monetary resources did these student athletes have access to? My guess is zero, they should have enough money in their pockets to afford $400 shades. I have had student athletes intern for me and tell me about their brutal schedules and how at times while traveling away to play a game they had less than $5 in their pocket and could not afford a bag of potato chips. That is the reality of NCAA non payment of student athletes. So sit these young men out for three games and keep it moving.
In terms of the debt they owe, they do own President Trump gratitude and they owe Colin Kaepernick an apology for their actions. President Trump’s actions in no way set the country back on track, or clears his political debt to Black America. He made millions as a slum lord, he slammed the Central Park 5 and sullied their names when they were NOT guilty, he has stroked the ego of White America to the point of our nation having KKK showing up with guns and Tiki-torches at rallies. These young men and Black America can find a point to agree and show gratitude, but Trump’s political deficit is “HUGE.” For young Black Men who do not have U. C. L. A. celebrity capital, they should redirect their education to law, law enforcement, or politics and help young Black Men without access to a Presidential Pardon get justice in our broken legal system. The NBA does not need three more professionals unless they are going to live their lives like a Colin Kaepernick willing to risk it all for social justice and the advancement of Black America.