Clarett, Artest Showcasing Their Skills At “Polarizing” A Community

By Gregory Moore
Updated: November 12, 2004

Maurice Clarett

SAN ANTONIO, TX— – Kudos go out to Maurice Clarett and Ron Artest this week. The award goes to these young men because they are now the subject matter for every educator, parent, coach and talk show host in all of America. They are perfect role models for a society that believes in not owning up to responsibility, integrity and just ‘being a man’. Problem is for these two athletes are in THIS society; we are expecting our athletes to be a little bit more above reproach. Yet their problem is actually magnified a little more because in the Black community, athletes are about as revered as a head of state; especially in the households of single parents. So when Clarett bad mouths Ohio State and tries to make the assertion that the school ‘forced’ him to take illegal cash, cars and other stuff he has so aptly been quoted in an ESPN The Magazine article as saying, whom do you believe? When Artest tells ESPN that he wants time off and then tries to back track his statement after Indianapolis’ own sports columnists and national sports talk show hosts berate him for being and idiot, how would you take his actions? And thus this week these two athletes can be properly named “Dopes of the Week” and stand proud in their community for taking on such a notorious classification. In addition to getting this nice award, these two athletes have also polarized two segments of society.

CLARETT CONTINUES TO BEFUDDLE EVEN THE STAUNCHEST SUPPORTER There’s no misunderstanding that this columnist despises everything that Maurice Clarett stands for. That disposition doesn’t come from the fact that I personally don’t know him. As a person, I don’t know Clarett or his family. My disdain comes from the standpoint that a little over 23 months ago this young man was poised to be one of the best running backs in Ohio State history and instead of embracing that chance, he decided to listen to individuals who have inkling what the sports world is all about and that is including Hall of Famer Jim Brown. As much as I respect Brown, sometimes I am really disturbed when he picks up causes that just pan out to being nothing but fool’s gold. Maurice Clarett’s attempts this past year to get into the NFL was just that. Then add to the equation that Clarett has caused his former school to go through a rigorous NCAA investigation that proved that the school did nothing wrong and that it was Clarett who actually was the guilty party. Now is the school blameless? Of course not. They had to show the NCAA that they were indeed clean and it gave them a chance to clean up whatever mess they had going on. Yet as many will remember, I wrote a story about how Clarett violated the NCAA handbook and that he should have known better.

But as we are now finding out, this young man is so far removed from reality that it’s downright embarrassing. His recent remarks to a national magazine like ESPN’s makes everyone in the Black community just cringe because there is already a polarization to begin with. Just what is that polarization? The fact that the ‘man’ is always trying to trip up one of ‘our’ own. Let’s be frank for a moment on this subtopic. I’ve been writing about sports and Black athletes for almost a dozen years now and with many of those years dealing with this very issue. There is no true polarization to speak of. There is ignorance of facts in the Black community. There is mistrust, misinformation and flat out denial by many who think that Black athletes deserve special privileges. That is what I call the polarization between the media and the Black community. What Clarett has done, whether he knows it or not, is that he has simply added to this ‘myth’ and once again you have a segment of the Black community thinking that he has done nothing wrong and that he has basically played “Robin Hood” for himself. An interesting concept to say the least.

ARTEST’S ACTIONS MIMICKING CLARETT’S IN NATURE Let’s fast-forward and look at what Ron Artest did. Artest has been working on a rap album and pushing his body to perform on the court and also in the studio. He has tried to work ‘two’ jobs and is now feeling the burnout. So what does he do? He goes to his head coach and asks for a ‘month’ off. What ensues is a lesson in Civics, work ethic and basic education in dealing with the media. Artest is 24 years old. He is also a very talented ball player for the Indiana Pacers. However, Ron Artest is also very misguided into how things work in the real world. Ironically what Artest is going through is very similar to what Clarett has been going through for several months. In Artest’s eyes, he is allowed to take time off from his job and rest himself. He deserves a vacation. He deserves to do whatever he wants, whenever he wants and however he wants. That is the perception of his actions and the fact that he doesn’t know what ‘integrity’ means, is even more trouble than we need to have in this day and age (by the way, for those who simply do not understand what the word means it is “ the quality of possessing and steadfastly adhering to high moral principles or professional standards.” Indianapolis Star’s Bob Kravitz’ column about wanting Artest removed from the team because he is a cancer. Many in the Black community may say that Kravitz is being unreasonable. Yet let’s really look at this situation for the moment. Had Artest been professional about his situation, would we even be privy to what happened? What’s a professional attitude for a sports athlete? How about not opening up your mouth to the press when you get benched for violating team rules. That is something is taught the moment you start playing organized sports and is groomed as you progress. When you reach college, you are supposed to already know some things but when you become a professional, you should already know how to conform yourself to the team rules that are set before you. What Artest did, by opening his mouth to the press, was very unprofessional and he deserves every bit of grief he’s getting right now. His actions, while maybe not as egregious as that of Clarett’s, are still very unprofessional and are still misguided in the public forum of sports as we now know it to be.

POLARIZATING THE COMMUNITY HAPPENS WHEN YOU AREN’T HONEST It’s not that columnists like Kravitz or anyone else in the sports writing business wants to bring anyone down. I do not want to bring Artest or Clarett down by pointing out that they are mindless, snickering brats. I’d much rather write about how these guys and others are doing great things both on and off the court. However as reality is poignantly points out to me every day, the ‘simple life’ of doing the right thing by many athletes is nearly impossible. These players who are making the news in a negative light think that they are doing something right in the eyes of the fans. They think that their off the court actions won’t interfere with their on the court jobs. Well if the were the case then maybe Artest could explain how the Los Angeles Clippers were able to give his team a 34-point loss; the worst in franchise history. If that were the case, then maybe Clarett can tell us how he plans on paying back the taxpayers of Ohio for that education that he didn’t receive or how he is going to make sure that his former teammates are compensated for his wrongdoing during his freshman year. In reality folks, neither one of these players or others in this classification simply don’t realize that when they let their selfishness rule, they hurt many more people than they want to. In the process these types of stories come out and in some cases, a community starts picking sides. Well the only reason why this happens is because the aforementioned athletes simply do not understand just how much power they have these days.

They say that time can heal all wounds and in many cases they are right. However in the sports world, especially the world where African Americans are revered, time is something that just doesn’t exist that often. Maybe the media was wrong in writing and then criticizing Artest and Clarett but I think that if the media, and that’s myself included, didn’t make an attempt to give a different spin on the issues at hand, we would be adding to the formula of polarization. For the Black community what needs to happen is that an education process must continue so that athletes like Clarett and Artest understand just what their actions can do in either a positive or negative fashion. Right now they have showcased their skills at being able to divide a community simply because they don’t know better. Now it’s time for them and others to learn how to act professional, be professional and above all else, and live a professional lifestyle as an athlete that is successful and fruitful long after that last whistle is blown.