Sports News Without Access, Favor, Or Discretion

Are The Reporters Going After Cam Newton "Slave Catchers"?

That's the term Jason Whitlock used. It's upsetting lingo, but there's something there. What's the culpability of those exposing rule-breakers when the rules are unjust?

Whitlock was using hyperbole, of course; that's what he does. No one's claiming slavery is equivalent to "only" compensating college players with full scholarships and nationally televised job auditions. But there is a parallel to be drawn in that there's a group of people in both instances who go out of their way to catch those getting around an unfair system, with only their own benefit in mind. Slave-catchers want the reward; journalists want the scoop.


(It's worth stopping to reiterate that I feel the NCAA's system is horribly, irretrievably broken. Putting aside the ethical issues with earning millions of dollars off of free labor, the fact that agents and boosters using money to influence amateur sports has been going on so long, and is so pervasive, is proof to me that the system doesn't work. If you don't agree, there's no point in reading this column.)

It's easy to understand where the reporters are coming from. Their job is to break news. Cam Newton, or Reggie Bush, or any college athlete accepting money is definitely news, and the bigger the athlete, the bigger the story. Ratings and pageviews prove it. So the journos are giving people what they want. Why the public is so hungry to hear about it is another story. (Schadenfreude? A sense of justice? Who knows.)

But it's not just NCAA problems. The biggest story of the year was the fall of Tiger Woods, and he committed no crimes, broke no laws. Hell, our most-viewed story yesterday was Lady Hockey Fan kicking through a column in the bathroom, and now Johnny Law's after her. We certainly didn't post that with the intention of getting her into any trouble. But it was interesting, and we knew people would want to see it. That's our chosen career in a nutshell.


So where do we get off fingering players and programs for doing what everyone's doing? Writing what we write, knowing punishment awaits for schools and young men who haven't actually hurt anyone? Despite the arguments laid out, the media need to keep doing what they're doing.

These are my own feelings, and I speak for no one else, but exposing individual violations is the best way to bring about change in the system. To echo Mario Savio's "Bodies Upon The Gears" speech, the NCAA machine has become so odious, you can't even passively take part. Bringing to light the flaws, the loopholes, the complete failure of the system, one instance at a time, is the only realistic way to bring the whole thing to a halt. With each new violation, the outrage dulls and the uproar lessens until people finally realize it's not the players, or the agents, or the recruiters. It's the machine. Maybe then, when enough of us see and hate what's going on, there can be a fix.


Will this way work? I'm hopeful, but not optimistic. We've been raking muck for decades, and we're no closer to the bottom.

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