Give it up for Sam Mellinger and the Kansas City Star…
Don’t rub your eyes, you heard me.
Because at long last somebody in the newspaper’s sports department reached down into their trousers, located something resembling an attitude and – voila – stuck it to KU basketball coach Bill Self and the almighty Jayhawks.
What hath God wrought?
Seriously, KC and Lawrence sportswriters and editors have been sucking up to KU basketball for so long it’s almost unbelievable somebody finally had the guts to do the right thing and call them out for kid glove treatment of male athletes and discrimination against women.
Hey, holding Self and the University of Kansas Athletics Department’s feet to the fire where ethical behavior and treatment of athletes is concerned is no small feat.
You won’t find anybody in Lawrence publicly manning up on that count.
And rightly, as noted by Mellinger, a Title IX investigation into equal treatment of men and women athletes at KU is a no brainer.
“Four of the Jayhawks’ top seven men’s basketball players have gone off path: arrested, suspended, charged with a crime or found by the university to have likely committed domestic violence,” Mellinger writes. “Some outsiders view this as a sign that the program is teetering on the brink of chaos…”
“Many within the university and program feel the problems are misunderstood, even as school officials decline to clarify while citing privacy constraints and legal guidelines. None of this is productive. None of it is helpful. Worse, it’s a distraction from learning what is true and what is not.
“The athletic department’s bungling has left a cloud hanging over the basketball program as the Big 12 Tournament opens this week in Kansas City, the kickoff to a month when college basketball has the nation’s sports attention.
“Kansas athletics has, at best, allowed a significant image problem to grow and take hold based on slow action and administrative missteps.”
Some may be shocked to see me waxing positive about Mellinger and the Star.
I’ve certainly been plenty critical of the newspaper’s many missteps.
However, unlike the jock sniffers at the Lawrence Journal World – who seem all but oblivious to Self and KU’s sexist treatment of women basketball players – the gang that doesn’t often shoot straight at 18th and Vine got this one right.
“At worst, it has a more systemic and troubling problem of protecting male athletes by unfairly and unequally punishing female athletes,” Mellinger adds.
“To reset: We know based on excellent reporting by The Star’s Laura Bauer and Mará Rose Williams that women’s basketball player McKenzie Calvert was told she was suspended by coach Brandon Schneider after a Dec. 9 incident at a Lawrence bar in which she threw a drink on men’s basketball player Lagerald Vick.
“That suspension was rescinded before the team’s next game after Calvert’s father complained about the difference in punishment handed out to men’s star Josh Jackson for kicking Calvert’s car after she threw the drink.
“Calvert did not play in KU’s next game and wasn’t able to work out with her team on two more occasions. She did not play in seven games this season.
“Jackson, a projected lottery pick in the NBA Draft, was never suspended for kicking and damaging Calvert’s car that night. Men’s coach Bill Self said Jackson’s punishment was immediate and ongoing but hasn’t divulged what that punishment is, and Jackson has played in every game for KU this season.
“Self’s secrecy here is his choice, and is consistent with how most coaches operate. But his insistence on calling Jackson ‘a great ambassador’ for the program adds to the mystery about why a men’s star who has been charged with a crime is seemingly punished more leniently than a women’s player whose property was damaged.”
Incidentally, according to a Journal World – yet to call out Self and KU on this issue – “total damage to the vehicle was estimated to be $3,150.”
Witnesses to the crime were reportedly “unable” to identify the other KU players – I mean, dudes – who participated in trashing Calvert’s car.”
“Let’s be clear on a c important points. We don’t know all the context here. Criminal charges were never filed against Vick for domestic violence. But a university investigation determined Vick likely punched Calvert repeatedly and kicked her in the face in late 2015.”
And given all that, Jackson lead the charge to kick the you-know-what out of the KU women’s basketball players car?
The bottom line:
With Self referring to the incidents involving his players and tarnishing the team as “crap and distractions,” it seems clear that the almighty KU basketball program is above reproach – ethics be damned.
Or as Mellinger more delicately put it, “Without an investigation, the suspicion that Self’s power extends over everyone in the athletic department goes unchecked.”
And not just by the fans, but the suck up sports media types in Lawrence as well.