The NCAA sucks. There are absolutely no two ways about it. No debate. No ifs, no ands, and no buts. The NCAA sucks.
Under the NCAA, we’ve seen poorly-handled scandal after poorly-handled scandal. In an ongoing investigation, the University of North Carolina faces what has been labeled the largest academic fraud scandal in major-college history. Over forty-five young boys were raped on Penn State grounds at the hands of assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky. The Syracuse men’s football and basketball teams have just recently been sanctioned for both the failure to follow their own internal drug policies and for allowing their athletes to receive illegal and improper benefits from the local YMCA. Three major scandals—and this is all just in the last few years.
Now, the NCAA faces its next challenge. The NCAA has the opportunity to do something and to do something well. They have a chance to step up; the chance to do something right—for once. And they did.
I’m sorry, I couldn’t even type that with a straight face.
The NCAA had a chance to take a stand, and they did what the NCAA does—they failed. They failed to embody the very mission for which they operate. They failed their athletes. They failed.
Unless you’ve been snuggled comfortably under a rock for the past two months, you’ve probably heard a little bit about the North Carolina discrimination bill. Regardless, here’s a recap: In late March, the North Carolina legislature passed the Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act, which requires transgendered persons to use the public restrooms corresponding to their birth certificates. This law goes a lot further than a potty break, though (which, for the record, is still important). This law strikes down any and all non-discrimination statutes across the entire state of North Carolina. These laws not only afforded transgendered persons the right to use the restrooms corresponding to their gender identities, but they also protected LGBT people from discriminations by businesses and other institutions serving the general public, including schools.
So, in summary: A straight guy and a gay guy walk into a bar. The gay guy gets kicked out. The end.
Talk about a joke.
Now, since the passing of this egregious bill, hundreds of corporations and individuals have responded by refusing to do business in the state. Celebrity performers Ringo Starr, Demi Lovato, and Pearl Jam (there’s a lineup) have all cancelled their shows in North Carolina as a sign of solidarity with the groups, businesses, and individuals fighting the discriminatory law. Major corporations PayPal and Deutsche Bank have demonstrated their commitment to inclusivity by canceling plans to expand business into the state. Why? To protect their people. These are major corporations taking a stand to protect their most valuable, precious assets: their employees.
So back to the NCAA. A major organization with one asset and one asset only to protect: its athletes. So it stands to reason that this organization would follow in the steps of PayPal and so many others. The NCAA would protect its athletes—its straight athletes, its gay athletes, its transgendered athletes. The NCAA would protect its athletes—all of them.
The NCAA had the chance to do something big. They had the chance to say: “Fuck you, North Carolina. We care about our athletes and we refuse to send them to a state where they won’t be treated with the respect they deserve. We are out.” Instead, they went with: “Oh, you silly geese! That wasn’t very nice of you. Now, say sorry and promise you won’t be mean to our kids, okay?”
The National Collegiate Athletic Association finally had the chance to become the National Collegiate Association of Athletes. They had the chance to protect their athletes. They had the chance to do their job. And they failed.
But fret not, sweet kittens. The world may not be rainbows and butterflies yet, but we can sure as hell work on it. Maybe the NCAA won’t do the right thing. Shock of the day. Well, here comes my self-righteous, rousing speech. Shock number two.
The NCAA won’t take care of its athletes? Fine. We will. You, me, my mom, her friend Teri, your uncle Bill. We will stand up. We will fight. Because it matters. What you do and what you say matters. So, do it. Say it. Make a poster. Sign a petition. Write a fricken poem, I don’t care what you do. Do it. Because people matter. All of them. Lesbian, gay, straight, transgender, yellow, purple, pink, even slow left-lane drivers. We will do what the NCAA won’t. We will fight. Because it matters.