Social media, our State Legislature, and now national news is buzzing with outrage and opinion about whether a female high school basketball player from Troy, Alabama should remain banned or benched as a result of receiving and accepting payment for her role as an athlete in a summer competition league.
The Alabama House Republican Caucus this week unanimously approved a resolution urging the Alabama High School Athletic Association to immediately reinstate the eligibility of Charles Henderson High School standout basketball player Maori Davenport of Troy.
The AHSAA rescinded Davenport’s eligibility due to a clerical error involving her play with the Team USA basketball program. USA Basketball reportedly compensated the Davenport family for incidental expenses associated with Davenport representing the United States at a basketball tournament in Mexico. Davenport led the under-18 year old women’s team to the gold medal. The payment does not violate NCAA rules; but does violate the standards of Alabama high school athletics. AHSAA Executive Director Steve Savarese revoked the girl’s amateur status so that she can not play basketball during her senior season.
The decision prompted several influential sportswriters, television personalities, and professional athletes to speak out on the high school student’s behalf. The decision is being called controversial but appears to have been made after a thorough review of the facts and not spontaneously or unilaterally by the director.
Now Bibb County observers are posting their positions on social media, including Facebook, and many tend to agree that the player should be reinstated. To do so would require that the ruling of the AHSAA be overturned.
Josh Moon is a writer for the Alabama Political Reporter that I don’t often agree with but in this case his column is persuasive and deserves consideration. Moon reminds us that the AHSAA was created by legislation that was designed to protect its decisions from meddling by influence peddlers, like State Legislators, Lobbyists, and headline grabbers. It is designed to be an independent body and decisions, such as the one made in this case, were not impulsively made by one person, such as the Executive Director.
The facts of this case were well explored before a decision was reached according to Moon but the outspoken critics have not pointed out how the decision was reached. The committee found that the athlete’s mother is an experienced and certified teacher/coach and knew the amateur rules.
Moon writes: “But in the end, the AHSAA found that the actions of Davenport’s mother violated the state’s amateurism rule. It ruled Maori Davenport ineligible and that ruling was unanimously upheld by two different committees — following hours of hearings — made up of 19 principals, athletic directors and superintendents from districts all around Alabama.”
Since I left high school, back in primitive times, we have lived in a society where people in charge of administering the rules of our society are frequently asked to make exceptions for “special cases”. This comes up often in the area of athletics where exceptions to rules for students with athletic skills are amended, broken, or completely ignored in order to allow the student to participate with a team. Looking back, the flawless method of observation and opinion making, I am not convinced that our contemporary society and the moral fabric of today’s youth has benefited by the decisions that we enlightened adults have made to bend the rules in favor of athletic prowess.
One thing that I have learned well as an adult is not to listen solely to impassioned pleas of public speakers. For example, young legislators offering a bill on the floor of the House to get relief for this athlete and bring the AHSAA to the heel of the State Legislature.
Surely you want to know ALL of the facts before you choose a side in this debate, and you have not heard the reasoning applied by the silent committees within the AHSAA because they can’t talk publicly about their process. Surely you want to have all of the facts in front of you for analysis before you jump out on Facebook with a well thought out position statement that your publicist might not approve of.
If she violated the amateur athletic rules of the AHSAA why should an exception be made to allow her to continue to play? I can’t think of any.
At what point in life did we stop teaching to our children the principles our parents taught us? Tell the truth, follow the rules, do unto others as you would have them do unto you, respect your elders, consider the consequences of your choices before you make them……you know these rules well.
Do kids stop observing the rules they were taught as children when they get to high school sports? How about when they start to drive and bust the traffic laws? How about when they boost a set of earbuds at Walmart? I could go on and on.
Hopefully, you prepared your children for their trip through puberty and into adulthood with a set of values. When our children enter high school we all are hopeful that the educational system builds upon the foundation that was struck at home. Education is our front line of defense in this world for our children, without it we are lost.
It is often up to the administrators and teachers to hold the line on the rules of the game. That is why they take their responsibilities seriously and it is also why we should not be so quick to question their decision making, without responsible fact gathering, and to rush to the court house to overturn decisions we don’t like.
THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS THE OPINIONS OF THE WRITER. IT MAY NOT FAIRLY OR ACCURATELY REPRESENT THE OPINIONS OF THE BIBB VOICE OR ITS EDITORIAL BOARD. YOUR OPINIONS OR COMMENTS ARE WELCOME AND ARE INVITED.