(I decided that on a Sunday morning you need a break from the “Madness! Madness!” clip, since I could justify including that one with almost every post of late.)
The Mike Gundy “scandal” at Oklahama State—he’s the football coach who is paid more than any professor—anwers the question of whether there’s a weird variation on “The Naked Teacher Principle” called “The White Big Time College Football Coach Who Wears a T-Shirt With The Name of a Conservative TV Channel Principle.” The answer appears to be “There is, but there shouldn’t be.”
This Bizarro World plot started unfolding a couple of weeks ago. I apology for missing it. I think college football is an ethical blot on higher education; I was happily unaware of what OAN stood for (One America Network), and I pay no attention to the words on T-shirts, including my own. This, however, as the George Floyd Freakout and The Great Grovel go, was epic.
I all began when someone posted this picture of Oklahoma State’s football head coach Mike Gundy (That’s the coach on the right) during a fishing outing with his sons.
Gundy was wearing the dreaded OAN T-shirt. Nobody knows how long he wore it or why: some days I end up donning a particular T-shirt on it happened to be the easiest one to pick up off the floor. OAN, in case you’re as out of touch as I am, is a Fox News competitor for the conservative-tilted news market. It has been an enthusiastic promoter of President Trump, so naturally he likes it, he really likes it! Some of the network’s talking heads have also been critical of Black Lives Matter, especially lately.
Thus it was that when Oklahoma State running back Chuba Hubbard, an African-American the Heisman Trophy contender, who was the nation’s leading rusher last season, saw that photo on social media, he retweeted it with an exclamation of outrage:
The matter should have ended there. The student should have been told that his what his coach wears on a family activity during his private time is none of his business, that if he had a complaint, it should have been raised privately with the coach, and that he does not have the right to dictate opinions on public controversies or choices of T-shirts to anybody, particularly his coach. If Hubbard didn’t like those conditions, he was welcome to give up his scholarship and the football team, and devote himself fully to the scholarship he doubtlessly hungered for. If his teammates threatened to boycott the team if Chuba’s concerns weren’t addressed, the school should have informed them that they could leave too. Students do not run schools.
However, there is so much ethically out of whack in college football, especially at football mills like Oklahoma State, that Chuba’s tweet was not the end. Oklahoma depends on football revenue more than an ethical institution can or should. This gives star players like Hubbard leverage that students must not have, especially since students are nascent adults at best and are neither experienced nor trustworthy—that’s why they are going to school, allegedly—to learn. In fact, students like Hubbard are at college to play football, and anything they learn off the field is secondary. That’s the first component of this perfect ethics storm.
The second is that during the George Floyd freakout and the wide-spread (and irresponsible) capitulation by political leaders, school administrators and business executives and others who have mouthed support for the mob’s agenda (without knowing what it is) in hopes that they will not be ostracized, “cancelled,” fired, or have their offices, homes or businesses burned down, African-American activists and their allies have a moment of disproportionate power, and are eager to use it.
The third is that far more people are willing to give up rights and principles for money, security, and safety that behave like responsible citizens, and protect our democracy.
Thus it was that Oklahoma State president Burns Hargis and athletic director Mike Holder jumped in with statements fully supporting Hubbard, and denying the team’s football coach the right to like whatever TV news source he chooses, and wear whatever T-shirt he wants.
Quick diversion: here is commentary on the incident to that point on ESPN by woke reporter Harry Lyles. His crack aanalysis is that the T-shirt was racially provocative because…
“One of [OAN’s] anchors recently referred to the Black Lives Matter movement as a “farce.” Some might say that categorization of the movement is a “difference of opinion,” but it’s not. It’s a flat-out lie. The Black Lives Matter movement promotes equality in the world for people like Chuba Hubbard, and myself.”
No, you incompetent, arrogant hack. That statement was an opinion, just like your statement is. If you don’t know the difference between opinions and lies, you should be in another profession. And here is my opinion: if you really think Black Lives Matter is promoting equality, you haven’t been paying attention.
True to the recent script we have seen too often, Gundy quickly took to YouTube and groveled for all he was worth, saying,
“I had a great meeting with our team today. Our players expressed their feelings as individuals and as team members. They helped me see through their eyes how the T-shirt affected their hearts. Once I learned how that network felt about Black Lives Matter, I was disgusted, and knew it was completely unacceptable to me. I want to apologize to all members of our team, former players, and their families for the pain and discomfort that has been caused over the last two days. Black lives matter to me. Our players matter to me. These meetings with our team have been eye opening and will result in positive changes for Oklahoma State football. I sincerely hope the Oklahoma State near and far will accept my humble apology as we move forward.”
It was a cowardly and idiotic statement. Gundy embraced the cancel culture concept that every individual or orgnaization should be punished for any non-conforming statement of action, no matter how long ago it occurred, or what else they have said or done. I have little doubt that he was ordered to do this by his employers, who didn’t dare to anything that might affect the school’s income stream.
Yesterday, we learned the jaw-dropping resolution of this pressure system. Gundy has agreed to accept a $1 million pay cut and a one-year reduction in contract length as penance for wearing a T-shirt that students objected to while engaging in recreation with his sons. He was accepting a massive penalty according to this chain of responsibility: he was wearing a shirt, with initials representing a TV news network, on which one commentator had uttered an opinion that was negative about a political activist group that a star player supported.
ESPN reported, “In addition to the pay cut, Holder said the contract length was shortened from five to four years, his buyout was cut from $5 million to $4 million, and his guarantee dropped from 75% to 50%.”
Gundy accepted his shame and fine rather than standing up for freedom of expression and the precious liberties of the rest of us. With the Founders still on my mind, Ben Franklin’s famous observation seems apt:
“Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”