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When I read about the possibility that Reggie Bush may have his Heisman Trophy taken, I became irritated beyond imagination.  “Here we go again,” I thought.  “Another self-righteous group of hoity-toity NCAA administrators making value judgments about the character of black male athletes.

If they can’t defeat them on the field, the game is then to create artificially contrived mechanisms for evaluating the worth of the athlete from a morality standpoint.  The problem for the NCAA, however, is that when it comes to ethics, they have no room to claim the moral high ground.  In fact, you might say they are crooks.

So, officials allegedly want to take Reggie Bush’s Heisman because he might have violated a set of rules that represent nothing less than a complete double standard that places athletes and their families (many of whom are black) at the bottom of an artificial caste system which puts coaches at the top (most of whom are white)?  Can we say “apartheid” anyone?  Are you trying to say that Reggie Bush wasn’t worth millions of dollars to USC and the NCAA in television deals, ticket sales, jersey sales and the like?  Yea, I thought so.

Why in the world have we somehow been convinced that black athletes (white ones too) and their families are not deserving of a slice of the massive revenue that athletes earn for their universities?  Did anyone watch USC football games to see anyone other than Reggie Bush and the other athletes on the field?  If that’s not the case, then why in the world has he been chastised like a runaway slave for simply getting a mere fraction of the money that he deserves?  Even China has a more equitable system of wealth distribution than the NCAA, who has made an art form out of turning the false into something that we all believe to be real.  That long list of rules and regulations created by the NCAA is designed to control athletes so they themselves can get wealthy from athlete labor.  We know that.

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Here’s the deal:  Black athletes don’t need the ridiculous and meaningless validation of a Heisman Trophy.  Over the last decade, seven out of ten Heismans have gone to white quarterbacks.  The truth is that this is typically the Golden Boy Award, and black athletes usually have to perform above and beyond the call of duty at their position to defeat whomever the media has chosen as the most “honorable and coachable” athlete with “good character.”  The Heisman committee’s overall character assessment doesn’t usually land in favor of black athletes if they buck the system, speak out of turn, or (God-forbid) take an intelligent stand on any meaningful social issue.  Personally, the Heisman Trophy means as much to me as a glass of milk with urine in it.  That trophy is absolutely worthless.

So, if I am Reggie Bush, I don’t wait for the Heisman Committee to decide that I am not worthy of their precious trophy.  Anyone who saw Reggie sprint down the feel and leap over defenders knows that he was the man and nothing less.  If I am Vince Young, the runner-up for the Heisman during the year Bush won, I reject the Heisman if it is offered to me after they take it away from Bush.  If I am any black athlete in America, I remove myself from consideration for the Heisman Trophy, because I know that my likelihood of being considered as lovable, ethical and marketable as the next Tim Tebow is slim to none.  Black athletes should walk away from the Heisman, walk toward education and walk toward empowering themselves against the racist, exploitative, capitalist machine called the NCAA.  All of this is just stupid.

Dr. Boyce Watkins is a Finance Professor at Syracuse University and founder of ALARM, The Athlete Liberation Academic Reform Movement.  For more information, please visit


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