Dennis Campbell
October 15, 2003
Diversity proponents said prepared to target athletics
By Dennis Campbell

WASHINGTON — It has not made the Drudge Report so it lacks much credibility, but the rumor on Capitol Hill is that a congressional taskforce is preparing legislation mandating diversity in college athletics. Feelers are out to several influential political and sports figures.

"We're modeling it after the University of Michigan policies and the recent Supreme Court ruling," said an insider. "There'll be no way to overturn this."

He told this column the legislation is designed to "take diversity to another level," and will ensure that college athletics more closely reflect the nation's ethnic makeup.

"How could there be any opposition," he asked, "other than from conservatives who think it's unconstitutional or immoral or something? Diversity is important, and there isn't enough in athletics. We have balance among men and women because of Title IX legislation, and this simply applies that to race."

He said a system is being developed so that no sport will be racially under-represented — African-Americans in golf, for example — but that every sport will be as balanced as possible.

Schools will be required to recruit under-represented racial groups for all their teams, men's and women's, and those who do not achieve "reasonable" diversity after a specified time will risk losing federal funds. Detailed diversity audits will be required from athletic diversity administrators annually.

"Obviously, we've got a lot of details to work out," said our source.

"But face it. There aren't many black kids playing water polo or golf. How many black guys other than Tiger Woods have you seen in college golf? Just because you aren't rich or can't afford private lessons doesn't mean you shouldn't have the opportunity to play.

"And how many Chinese point guards are there? It's a national disgrace. Check every champion water polo team for the past 20 years, and I'll bet my paycheck you won't find three Hispanics. Is that fair? Where is the diversity in that?"

A Bush Administration official (who requested anonymity, as did all our sources) would not specifically comment until seeing actual legislation, "but we supported diversity in the University of Michigan case, and I see no reason why we would not support it in athletics. We are very much in favor of diversity."

Preliminary reports are that not everyone is pleased, however.

Kelvin Sampson, coach of college basketball power the University of Oklahoma, with one white and 11 black players, is reported to have exclaimed, "You gotta be kidding! You mean I'd have to put, what, 70% white players out there? Guys who can't jump over a phone book, and run like they're wearing cement shoes? That's just (bleep). You put guys on the team because of ability, not to fill some bonehead quota!"

Jesse Jackson, usually a strong advocate of diversity, reportedly said, "Giving persons favored treatment because of race is wrong. Its basis is racist and wrong on its faces, er, face."

Insiders said Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee of the Congressional Black Caucus called it "a move back to pre-Civil War days racism. This is outrageous and reprehensible. Black athletes are much better in football and basketball, and if we give preferential treatment to whites, it will deny African-Americans their constitutional right to play those sports."

However, our source said Jackson-Lee would be willing to consider enforced diversity among sports under-represented by African-Americans "because there is an obvious and unfair imbalance."

A person close to South Dakota Sen. Tom Daschle told us he expressed "great sadness," saying that "mandating that certain ethnic groups receive special consideration is not the way we do it in America."

He is said to have told an aide, "Athletes should be judged by their abilities. What if we did this for academ…well, anyway, I would oppose it."

And a member of New York Sen. Hillary Clinton's inner circle said Hillary was concerned that Diversity Councils established to oversee diversity implementation would be required to have both politically conservative and liberal representatives, and as many women as men.

She was quoted as saying, "It's only right to have as many women as men because Title IX requires it. But requiring them to have conservatives is blatantly unconstitutional and another example of George W. Bush trying to shove his extreme right-wing political philosophy down the throats of all Americans."

When a staffer told her President Bush was not involved, she supposedly said, "Whatever. I support diversity as much as the next woman, but this is going too far."

We will keep you posted. Meanwhile, keep your eye on Drudge.

© Dennis Campbell

 

The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.
(See RenewAmerica's publishing standards.)

 

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