The first round of the NFL Draft was held in Chicago on Thursday with University of California quarterback Jared Goff selected as the overall first pick by the
St. Louis Los Angeles Rams. Carson Wentz, quarterback of FCS (the lower division of the minor leagues) powerhouse North Dakota State, was the second pick and went to the Philadelphia Eagles. But the story generating the most noise the morning after is the one involving Ole Miss’ offensive tackle, Laremy Tunsil.
By now you know of Tunsil’s video of him smoking marijuana out of a bong and text messages with university officials where he discusses an arrangement for payment of his mother’s electric bill (which are “improper benefits” for an minor leagues athlete). On Thursday night, Tunsil and his agent Jimmy Sexton both claimed that Tunsil’s Twitter and Instagram account had been hacked. Tunsil was obviously in Chicago for the Draft and it seems likely that his claim is true. The most likely suspect for leaking the video and photos is Tunsil’s step-father, Lindsey Miller. The two have been legally and physically at odds with one another for the past year, stemming from an incident where Tunsil assaulted Miller, which he claims was in defense of his mother, who herself was being assaulted by Miller. This past week, Miller filed a lawsuit claiming that Tunsil assaulted and defamed Miller’s character.
And now this social media attack. It probably cost Tunsil a top-five pick, certainly the sixth pick which the Baltimore Ravens used on a player of the same position, and millions of dollars. Tunsil was eventually selected by the Miami Dolphins with the 13th pick.
Let’s forget about the first part. A college kid smoked weed and had a video of it. So what? It may seem like a big deal to the Baby Boomer generation, but more Americans are in favor of marijuana legalization than against it, according to a Gallup poll from last autumn. Let’s not vilify anyone for it, much less a 21 year-old kid on what was supposed to be the best night of his life.
Let’s look at the second piece of contraband: the photos revealing that Tunsil received money from the university. Yet again there’s half-hearted cries of shock as a player takes money from someone he “wasn’t supposed to”. Yet again we’re supposed to pretend that the player should be morally obligated to follow the rules, against the same moral obligation he has to protect himself and his family. This is nothing new for Tunsil, who was already suspended for receiving benefits during his time at his minor league club.
The NFL is the beneficiary of the greatest minor leagues system in professional sports. No matter what happens at Ole Miss in the wake of Tunsil, the NFL will keep making money. Good for them, I guess. You can’t exactly blame them for the NCAA’s faults.
And oh, how there are faults within the NCAA. This sends us back to the argument that has repeated ad nauseam: should college athletes be allowed to receive compensation (other than tuition) for playing for universities? That brings us to arguments such as “you can’t put a price on education” and “college sports generate a fortune”, both of which are partial lies. If you can’t put a price on an education, then why does college tuition have a fixed price literally attached to it? And yes, college sports brings in a lot of money, but it’s also very costly for universities to run.
As a society that does put an incredible amount of emphasis on being educated while also being a society which is obsessed with sports, perhaps we need to start asking better questions.
Let’s stop believing that colleges athletics is always about kids getting a chance to play organized college sports for the same institution that is allowing them to receive an education. Hell, let’s stop tying sports together with education. It should be an option, not a necessity, to receive an education if your true goal is to play in a professional sports league. For hundreds of kids, it’s a very real opportunity to become a professional athlete, and for hundreds more it’s a stretch goal. But for thousands, it’s just a way to be able to enjoy organized sports for a few years longer. Whichever side you’re on, it’s not wrong.
Do I blame Tunsil or Ole Miss for anything? Absolutely not. I blame the NCAA for trying to tether down the ultra-competitive nature of top division college sports with rules that encourage clandestine competitiveness. Stop it. Stop it all. Let schools offer any type of compensation. Let athletes take whatever is offered to them. Let’s not punish universities by stripping them of scholarships, or punish future student-athletes because some player broke some rule that didn’t involve them. It’s bunch of bologna.