Rules are rules, but James is one being abused
February 5, 2003
Knowing the second and third chances we give our star athletes, it shouldn’t come as a surprise when prep basketball phenom LeBron James is reinstated to the St. Vincent-St. Mary, Akron, Ohio team as early as today.
Major League Baseball was more forgiving of Darryl Strawberry’s drug problems than his family. As anal as golf is about its rules, you have to wonder why John Daly is still allowed to rip it and grip it. Why has the NBA allowed Rasheed Wallace and Dennis Rodman the freedom to treat officials like the victims of a road-rage crime?
It’s all about the money they generate.
Obviously, it’s not fair to classify James with these unsavory characters, even though this is the second time his amateur status has come under question in the past month.
Considering the offense, did James know he was breaking an Ohio athletic rule for amateurism when he accepted a pair of throwback jerseys worth $845 from a Cleveland clothing store? In exchange, the store received some pictures of James to adorn its walls.
“If I had known I was violating anything, I would’ve never done it,” James told the Associated Press earlier this week. “I would’ve never jeopardized my eligibility. I would’ve never jeopardized my team.”
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James and his attorney are seeking a restraining order to block the Ohio High School Athletic Association’s ruling that ended the 6-foot-8 senior’s season last Friday.
Do coaches really go over these antiquated rules with their players? Is there a handbook of rights and wrongs for the prep athlete?
“Actually, we don’t go over it with the kids for the simple fact that we don’t have that problem,” said Whittell Athletic Director Brian Mehrer, who also serves as the boys’ varsity basketball coach. “I would presume Reno coach (Pete) Padgett does. I’m sure he has talked to (his son David) about things like that. As an AD, if we had a star player who was getting all that exposure, I would.
“You have to play by the rules set up. If you’re not willing to play by the rules, you’re going to suffer the consequences and that goes for the star players down to the regular players.”
What is a gift and how does it differ from an act of kindness? If a local car dealer supplies a STHS team with a couple of sports utility vehicles to safely transport their players to a game during a snowy week, does that kindness render every player on that team ineligible?
Interestingly, Deion Sanders, who once was a hot commodity coming out of high school in Florida, doesn’t believe amateurs exist today.
“I never heard of a rule like that,” Sanders told the Washington Post. “If we really did our homework, I don’t think we would have anyone eligible.”
To me, it looks as if James already has his business degree. He made a good swap, considering that the pictures of James may soon fetch a price much larger than the Wes Unseld and Gale Sayers jerseys he has returned.
James’ school has been capitalizing on the future No. 1 NBA pick by moving home games to a larger arena and charging larger admission prices. The message is quite clear to James: If you have something hot, you better make some money while you have it.
“We need to control the exploitation of athletes, even though I would dream of moving a game from Whittell because we had too many fans,” Mehrer said.
James obviously could have been a millionaire by now if he would have taken advantage of his worth like his school and ESPN have.
Rules aren’t made to be broken, but at the same time some rules need to be modified since schools are being hypocritical.
The temptations James has resisted to remain in amateur standing up until last Friday show his understanding of the rule.
Missing several games is punishment enough. Let him play.
— Tribune Sports Editor Steve Yingling can be reached at (530) 542-8010 or
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