Wednesday, December 03, 2008

An important comment I hope everyone reads

A comment notification popped into the old inbox this afternoon. In full:

You know, I've been seeing this for a year, and normally I don't respond to ad hominem attacks, but finally, in this year of change, I thought I'd set the record straight.

1. I was the starting guard for my JV high school basketball team.
2. I was a starting member of the tennis team for 2 years in high school.
3. I regularly played intramural sports through college and law school.
4. I taught tennis at the Special Olympics when I attended Cal.
5. I hosted the Tiger Woods Foundation Golf Clinic at Harding Park in San Francisco in 1999.
6. I play golf whenever I can, having taken up the sport in 1997 after watching Tiger Woods win the Masters. Something about "role model" and "opportunity" made me want to compete in a sport I had heretofore not identified with minorities.

If you bothered to read the entire transcript, you would understand the issues involved. If women are not provided a chance to engage in intercollegiate athletics, what does that say about our country? Everyone uses the old saw that "football, baseball, basketball" will be cut. The evidence hardly exists to support that conclusion, except perhaps in those rare instances in schools where the programs were marginal to begin with. The fact of the matter is, college athletics is more robust, and college campuses are richer, and our nation is stronger because of the passage and enforcement of Title IX.

Yes, sometimes choices have to be made. But the fact is, they have always been made in college sports. Prior to Title IX, campuses determined what mens' sports teams to support and which ones would be self-sufficient. Blaming Title IX for the demise of some mens' programs is an easy blame-shifter, rather than focusing on the fact that we are creating the same opportunity for camaraderie, teamwork, and excellence for young girls and women. I say that's a positive.

It certainly doesn't suck.

Michael Yaki
U.S. Commission on Civil Rights

First, I'd like to offer sincere thanks to Mr. Yaki for taking the time to write his comment.

Here's the original post. I think Mr. Yaki missed the long-running gag, that people and things who committed silly acts got thrown into the ever-popular "You Suck" series. Other members of the club include current D.C. council member Marion Barry, electronics maker Sony, faux weight-loss product Lipozene, and the folks who compose the scrolling ticker on CNN.

So you are not alone.

All that being said, I stand behind what I wrote. While your accomplishments are numerable and commendable, particularly your involvement with Special Olympics, they do not qualify you to be in a position to be advising on aspects of intercollegiate athletics. I am as much qualified to be an instructional pilot at Delta based on my hours spent on Flight Simulator.

We agree on more than you may think. The growth of women's athletics in this country is a wonderful development. I pray that the WNBA stays afloat for as long as possible; they provide role models to a generation of girls that may otherwise find few of them.

Title IX, at its essence, is good legislation.

What it has become, however, is not good. It does suck.

See, the thing that blows my mind is this: You're essentially saying - and please correct me if I'm wrong on this - that collateral damage in men's sports is OK, so long as we provide opportunities for women's sports.

That, and your unfortunate choice of words in that hearing, are my primary concerns with you in your capacity as it relates to Title IX. (If you believe the Associated Press wrongly quoted you, please let me know and I will happily post that. I will leave it to our readers to decide.)

Here's what I want from our higher education system: Opportunities for all to participate in as many varsity sports as possible. These days, that is not possible. Wrestling programs are being eliminated at an alarming rate; other Olympic sports on the men's side have also been dropped frequently.

Much of this, as best I can tell, happens to bring a particular school in line with Title IX.

I have no concerns that the big three of football, basketball and baseball will be adversely affected. At the I-A/FBS level, football drives the athletic department; basketball helps out too; and baseball, in certain pockets of the country, is incredibly popular.

Instead, I worry about the minor sports. What if I have a son who runs cross country but goes to a school where the program is cut? What if he wrestles? Can I demand a campus wave off federal funding in order to support my son's team? I can, I suppose, but I'll be laughed out of the building (with a security escort, no doubt).

Let me say this as clearly as possible: My feelings have nothing to do with gender, race, ethnicity or even sport of choice. I will fight with all of my power to ensure that young women have a chance to benefit from athletics.

But what kind of a person am I if I don't fight with that same intensity for young men and their opportunities? Do they not deserve the same chance?

I want equality for all. Not some, or half, or most. All.

Title IX, for all the excellent intentions behind it, fails in that endeavor at this point.


Mr. Yaki, you are always welcome here. Though I disagree most vehemently with your position and the way you present it, I believe in the power of free speech as well.

1 comment:

Stormy said...

Very interesting!!

BTW, "I pray that the WNBA stays afloat for as long as possible; they provide role models to a generation of girls that may otherwise find few of them."

And pays your buddies bills!!! :)